Erin Leitoa, New Zealand For Women in Science Fellow 2016.

L’Oréal is proud to be supporting women researchers throughout the world who contribute to moving science forward.  

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme recognises the work of female scientists around the world.  With only 30% of the world’s researchers being women*, it aims to promote and highlight the critical importance of ensuring greater participation of women in science.

There are three programmes:

1. The International Laureate Programme:

L’ORÉAL-UNESCO Awards have recognised 87 Laureates, exceptional women who have made great advances in scientific research.  Two of them have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize. In 2007, New Zealand Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble, University of Auckland, received the Asia-Pacific Laureate award in materials science for her research on the synthesis of biologically active natural products that provide new lead compounds for the development of new drugs.

Read more about this year's International Laureates

2. The International Rising Talents Programme:

Recognising the best For Women in Science fellows from around the world each year, the ‘International Rising Talent Fellows’ are selected from the winners of the national and regional fellowship programmes.  Fifteen grants are given annually, covering each of the five regions: Africa & Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.

3. The National Fellowships:

The National Fellowships, such as the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Australia & New Zealand Fellowship programme, are run in 46 countries around the world.  Each National Fellowship helps female scientists at a critical point in their career to continue to pursue their research with flexible financial aid.  The Australia & New Zealand Fellowship programme comprises four $25,000 awards, three for Australian scientists and one dedicated to a New Zealander.

Since 1998, over 2,000 scientists in more than 110 countries have received this award, and 87 Laureates have also been awarded. 

While New Zealand women scientists have been recognised previously, 2015 is the first year the nation has had its own dedicated fellowship. 

Inaugural winner of the L’Oréal-UNESCO New Zealand Fellowship was University of Otago geologist Dr Christina Riesselman, to support her research into climate change.  Dr Riesselman is using her Fellowship to focus on the end of the last Ice Age around 11,000 years ago when earth warmed quickly and sea levels rose to their current levels.

The 2016 recipient of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science New Zealand dedicated Fellowship was Erin Leitoa.  The Auckland University chemical scientist spends her days trying to understand and develop was of creating new material building blocks and new ways to connect them.

The vast majority of synthetic chemistry is targeted at making molecules and materials containing predominantly carbon.  Ms Leitoa wants to make use of other main-group (inorganic) elements such as silicon, phosphorus, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur to synthesise polymers.  Currently the chemistry of linking main-group elements together is under-developed.

"The L’Oréal FWIS fellowship will help me kick-start my independent research career as well as provide support to make balancing a family and a career more effective," says Ms Leitoa.

More information on the L’Oréal-UNESCO fellowships can be found here: Australia & New Zealand Fellowships


*UNESCO Institute of Statistics (2014)