Interview of the Month: Femmes & Sciences (07/2017)

Posted on

Every month, for you, EPWS presents the characteristics and activities of one Member Association.

Read all the previous Interviews with our Members here

Our member for June is the French association Femmes & Sciences.


For F&S, Dr. Sylvaine Turck-Chièze (STC), CEA Research honorary director and Femmes & Sciences president has agreed to answer the EPWS questionnaire.

Contact for this association:
Contact for this member: or
Association website:

EPWS: If you wanted to describe your association in one sentence, what would you say?

STC: Our association aims to improve the position of women in science and technology in France, both in the public and private sectors, by promoting a positive image of science and of women in science, and by encouraging young people (particularly girls), who are studying science or technology and pursuing careers in these disciplines.

EPWS: What are the objectives of your association?

STC: We have two main objectives:

1) We strive to improve the gender balance in all scientific jobs, at all levels, by encouraging women, supporting them and contributing to concrete actions with the government or institutions to increase the percentage of women in their organisation.
In 2014, our association received the ‘Golden Trophy for men-women equality’ from Association pour l’Emploi des Cadres (APEC – National association for the executives’ employment) in the category ‘Public organisations and associations’.

On 22 April 2017, we took part to the March for Science in Montpellier (picture, left), Toulouse, Paris (right) where the president of F&S emphasised the importance of mixing genders in scientific jobs.


2) In order to find the best way to convince young women, parents and professors that they have the legitimacy and competences to succeed in a scientific high school education, we analyse the biases which lead to a lower percentage of girls (<30%) at this level.

We meet more than 7000 teenagers each year across the country, and have discussions with young girls in secondary education, to convince them that they are welcome in scientific and technical jobs. They are reassured that these jobs are not gendered and could be very interesting for them. This raising of awareness is performed in collaboration with the French ‘associations femmes et mathématiques’, ‘ Femmes Ingénieurs’ and APMST, which are also EPWS members.

Meeting with girls at Musée des Confluences in Lyon, 8th March, 2017


EPWS: In a few words, what is the history of Femmes & Sciences?

STC: In 2000 a group of women, from various science disciplines and professional backgrounds, founded the association Femmes & Sciences (‘Women and Science’). This was prompted by the pioneering studies of Huguette Delavault, concerning the overall situation of women in science in France, and the observation that women were notably absent at various important decision making levels in science or technology. Since then, this association has developed excellent relationships with the ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research (MENESR) and French scientific institutions like the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and the French national institute for computer science and applied mathematics (INRIA).

EPWS: Could you explain the organisation of your association?

STC: Our association is nationwide, with over 250 members from all scientific disciplines. This allows us to have representatives throughout the French regions and also overseas. We have strong representation in Paris, Montpellier, Strasbourg, and Toulouse, with smaller groups in other towns and cities. F&S works with the ministries of Higher Education and of Women’s Rights, with CNRS and CEA, together with major industries, like Electricité de France, Renault…

To raise the public awareness, F&S organises a yearly colloquium which is concerned with issues relating to girls’ scientific education and women’s careers. It produces movies aimed at young people, teachers and parents; these focus on the education and careers of successful young women. It also analyses the selection criteria for the access of girls and boys into the “classes préparatoires” -the elite classes at the commencement of French Higher Education.

EPWS: What are its recent achievements?

STC: There are a number of goals in which we have been successful:

The principal recurrent achievement is the publication of the proceeding of our annual colloquium. This has resulted in more than 15 books, which we have registered at the French National Library. They cover aspects of the issues which are most relevant to scientific women. The last book, with material from the 2016 colloquium, was published in 2017, and deals with the involvement of scientific women with the large and small companies in France and internationally.

Since 2013, we have produced short movies on the pathway for women, from education to research or marketing activities in many sectors. These movies are in the public domain, and can be freely accessed, either from our site or from ‘YouTube’: and ONISEP TV:, a ministerial site where many jobs are described. These movies offer girls examples of role models in widely different disciplines; for example: mathematics and the environment; nutrition, chemistry and physics. These role-models had many different ambitions and followed both standard and non-standard paths to achieve their interesting current jobs. The spirit of these movies is to demystify some of the perceived stereotypes attached to girls in science. A booklet for use by their teachers is also available. It links these movies with lessons in mathematics, physics or chemistry and biology. The movies can be used even when it is not possible for our members to be present in class for discussions with the pupils.

A third recent activity is the development of a mentoring scheme in Occitanie (the Montpellier and Toulouse region) and Ile-de-France (Paris region). This uses individual and collective activities for students working towards a post-doc or PhD qualification.

EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?

STC.: We are preparing a small book on successful past and present French women scientists. It is noticeable that, apart from one or two very famous women, schoolbook publishers are ignorant of scientific women’s achievements. Consequently, illustrations used in lessons usually only feature male examples. This is the same for the names of streets or monuments in towns or universities. We act regularly to improve this situation.

he 6 women scientists chosen for naming streets inside University Paul Sabatier campus, Toulouse, following Femmes & Sciences suggestions.


In parallel, we are developing a mentoring scheme and will reinforce our contact with secondary schools which are geographically distant from large cities; it is perceived that access to science is less evident in these rural localities. We are also developing a programme for engineering schools, which is aimed at reducing the problems which limit the entry of women from the minorities.

EPWS: Are you collaborating with other EPWS members?

We participate to the yearly meetings of French EPWS members, which brings together 8 to 10 persons (association representatives and individual members) and acts as a think-tank for EPWS; the concept of having an EPWS ‘Association of the Month’, on the website and now in a booklet, was conceived at the 2015 and 2017 meetings of F&S. Femmes & Sciences’ first president, and now president of honour, Claudine Hermann, is vice-president of EPWS. Thus, there is a strong exchange of information between EPWS and our association.

EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?

The actions and information of the EPWS members from other European countries are a source of inspiration for our association and generate topics for our discussions with French institutions. For example, in our colloquia we often have European invited speakers, with whom we are acquainted through EPWS.

Thus, EPWS helps us to develop and broaden our actions through the knowledge of foreign good practices. The improvement of women scientists’ situation is an international issue, shared by Femmes & Sciences and EPWS.


Favourite LINKS (in French)

17 propositions from the French women scientist’s associations on scientific education and on the situation of French women scientists and engineers, targeting the candidates to the French presidential 2017 election

MOOC in French « Être en responsabilité demain: se former à l’égalité femmes – hommes » (Managers of tomorrow: be trained on gender equality), to which Femmes & Sciences, femmes et mathématiques, Femmes Ingénieurs contributed

Ministerial gender-disaggregated statistics on French education: « Filles et garçons sur le chemin de l’égalité –de l’école à l’enseignement supérieur » (Girls and Boys on the Way to Equality, from School to Higher Education)

Ministerial gender-disaggregated statistics on French higher education staff: « Enseignement supérieur et recherche – Vers l’égalité femmes-hommes ? Chiffres clés » (Higher Education and Research – Towards Women-Men Equality? Key Figures)