Women in science

08-03-2021

Women in science are not as rare a phenomenon as they once used to be. But even today, we generally see more men in science than women.
At VSL we have some of the brightest female scientists in metrology working in our teams.
For International Women’s Day we interviewed two of them, to learn more about what it is like for them to work as a female scientist in metrology.


Annarita Baldan, Principal Scientist Gas Analysis 

 
Why did you choose to work in metrology?
“Metrology concepts are covered very briefly at school and when I was young, I did not plan to become a metrologist! I came in contact with VSL when I started working in air quality measurements. In this field the accuracy and uncertainty of measurement results are crucial to assess compliance with pollution limit values. VSL offered me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge and to get in contact with other fields where metrology in chemistry plays an important role. “ 
 
What has it been like to work in metrology as a woman for you? 
“Like for other scientific subjects, metrology is typically a male-dominated field. At the begin of my career in metrology I used to work with many male colleagues, but this was no problem and it did not influence my work attitude and my work growth to principal scientist. In the last years, VSL chemistry group composition has changed into almost 50 % women, most of them covering a scientific role.”
 
Should there be more women in science and if so, why: what do they bring or do differently that benefits science?
“I take this opportunity to promote the participation of women in science! I believe that an equal mix of men and women in the workspace will have a benefit on the dynamics and the performance of a group. Women often have a better mastering of soft skills, such as empathy and collaboration spirit, that can make the difference in the success of achieving results.”
 
What would you say to girls if they would ask you why they should choose a career in science and/or metrology?
“First of all, I would say that it is highly rewarding work and it has high impact on society. Secondly, I would tell them that the most important qualities for doing this work are to keep an open mind, to always be curious and eager to learn and to believe in themselves. All qualities that women can easily possess.”


Yan Xie, Scientist Time & Frequency

Why did you choose to work in metrology?
“Metrology is the science of measurement, which includes both the analysis of units of measurement in theory and the realization of units of measurement in practice. Letting the perfect physics and mathematics formulas not only stay on paper or in the computer, but also transform them into promoting technological development in real world, I think this is the meaning of this work, and it makes me feel a sense of accomplishment in this job.”
 
What has it been like to work in metrology as a woman for you? 
“When I joined the ET (Electricity, Time and Frequency) group of VSL three years ago, I was told that there had been no female colleagues in ET group for several years, and my colleagues were happy that I improved the diversity of the group. In many scenarios, such as in the office, in the lab, and in a meeting, I’m the only female who is present. But it is not a problem at all. Collaborating with talented colleagues at VSL is a very nice experience. Colleagues with similar technical background can always find their common technical interests and language. We share ideas, brainstorm together, and then we are excited to find that ‘great minds are alike’. “
 
Should there be more women in science and if so, why: what do they bring or do differently that benefits science?
“To my own experience, diversity of people in general can help inspire diversity of ideas and thoughts. For example, sometimes women will think from a different perspective. Science needs great ideas, and scientific inspirations come from the maximum range of curiosity and creativity. Science does not have boarders. Of course, women will no longer be absent in science. Compared to decades ago, nowadays more and more women are active in science.”
 
What would you say to girls if they would ask you why they should choose a career in science and/or metrology?
“There is no doubt that girls have the same talents as boys in science. But the challenge that girls might be facing is not to let negative voices around them become their own psychological cues, like: “Girls are good at perceptual thinking but not logical thinking.” Or: “Girls are good at literature and art but not science and technology…” Just be self-confident and be perseverant. If you are interested to work with talented colleagues and do some fantastic things that may change the world, do not hesitate to follow your heart and pursue your dream. As long as you have a dream, the whole world will make way for you.”


There are many more female scientists that work at VSL and we appreciate them all. Not only at International Women’s Day, but every day. They are an important part of VSL's diverse and international community.
At VSL we work with talented colleagues of more than 15 nationalities on developments in the unique world of metrology