This article is part of the "Women in Science" series, which highlights the careers of women at École Polytechnique.

Photo Sophie Laboratoire

Sophie Ramananarivo is Assistant Professor at École Polytechnique and works in the laboratory LadHyx. Former student at l’École Normale Supérieure in Paris (ENS), she did a PhD thesis at École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de Paris (ESPCI). She also prepared two post-doctoratal degrees in New York City and San Diego. Sophie Ramananarivo gave us her opinion as a young woman in the scientific research sector.

In your opinion, why are women less represented in Science?

I think the under-representation of women in science comes from education, in particular from the choices they make in high school or even before. But beyond the problem of education, there is another one about representation. Seeing only a few women in a profession makes it difficult for young women to project themselves into the sector. I talk a lot with female students and with people that come to see me in the laboratory, and I have many positive comments from them about seeing more female scientists. It is essential to work on women visibility in the scientific workplace.

What are the main challenges women have to face?

In my opinion, the first challenge I am thinking of is the difficulty for women to reconcile their working and family lives. But in France I think we are privileged in this matter.

Moreover, one of the main differences between men and women today is self-censorship, there is a tendency for women to depreciate themselves. When reading a job offer for example, they will easily be focused on the skills they may not have and therefore feel less legitimate to apply.

How could this situation be improved?

As mentioned above, improving representation of women seems to be a priority. I notice a positive evolution regarding the presence of women in the sector. There is a new generation of skilled and passionate women in the research field.

I also observe an effort regarding scholarships. Indeed, some have been created only for women or for those who have children.

Furthermore, regardless the gender, I think it is very important to have mentors during our professional career, people that will support our choices, help us when in doubt and allow us to project ourselves.

In your opinion, how does École Polytechnique support Women regarding the scientific field?

When a job offer in research is published, it is now specified that female candidates are encouraged to apply. École Polytechnique supports women recruitment in that way.

The representation of women seems to be a priority in our Institution: content on the website highlights women careers and there are many pictures of female students in the brochures of the programs. This kind of action helps improving the situation.

As far as I am concerned, the research environment at École Polytechnique is supportive for young researchers.

Do you have any role model of a woman scientist or from another sector?

I do not have a role model but I have respect and admire the audacity of many people, men and women. I particularly have in mind my thesis supervisors and co-workers. It is inspiring to see people that are passionate by what they are working on.

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