Women hold up half the sky

March 8 was the International Women’s Day, and Feb. 11 was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The latter was established by the United Nations in 2015 to help achieve gender parity in educational opportunity and science generally.

We are not there yet. Historically, females have not been given the same opportunities and encouragement in science as men, and the world can use more scientists. The great challenges facing humanity, such as climate change, clean energy, nutrition and many others depend on science, and we need all the help we can get!

I am excited to be part of an experiment studying fundamental particles and forces using the Large Hadron Collider, a huge proton accelerator across the Swiss-French border near Geneva. There are about 1,000 women scientists, engineers, and students, at universities and laboratories all over the world, working on the project, and they currently make up about 20% of that huge collaboration. LHC experimental collaborations are taking active steps to increase this number and to create a more inclusive environment.

Particles of much higher energy than even in the LHC, called cosmic rays, are raining down on Earth. We don’t know where they come from or how they get such high energies. A project called the Auger Observatory is trying to find out, with detectors on the ground covering five times the area of the city of Chicago. Many of the women in that project celebrated the IDWGS by sharing their experiences. Here are some of their messages to other girls:

Adriana Vasquez (Colombia): “Don’t let anyone condition your curiosity and with perseverance you will get wherever you want to go.”

Alexandra Saftoiu (Romania): “When you do what you love nothing can stop you!”

Antonella Catellina (Italy): “When I was a girl, I was fascinated by the night sky, and wondered not only about stars, but even more about what was hidden beyond, in the dark. A passion that has always been with me, which I shared with my daughter: growing together the tree of knowledge. So, if you love science, take the challenge: no barriers or gender issues can stop you if you fight to walk forward!”

I wish I could go on! Ioanna Maris (Belgium) said: “Research in physics is some of the greatest fun I have ever had; it is up to you to join and enjoy understanding the Universe!”

See more great quotes.

Your day job may have nothing to do with science, but with education you can enjoy it!

This is a version of an article that originally appeared in Positively Naperville. Mike Albrow is a Fermilab scientist emeritus. The author’s views are his own.