Potenti’Elle in Science

Divya Venkat Sridhar, Writer

What do you get when you mix some fizzing test tubes, a Fields medal winner and over 200 people from all over the Suisse Romande region?

On the 9th of February 2023, ISL was proud to host Potenti’Elle In Science from 17:30 to 20:30- an event in collaboration with the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Administration, Inspiringirls Switzerland and Mod-ELLE. The evening was dedicated to celebrate the UN International Women and Girls’ Day in Science (February 11th), and boasted participants and inspiring speakers from all fields of STEM.

In case you missed it, here’s a short recap of the wonderful event put together by Ms. Edmunds, the science department, and ISL students.

The doors opened to a series of colourful science experiments organised by the ISL STEM week team: burning compounds, whizzing robots and sparks of static electricity were in the air. The students also mounted 10 posters around the south building featuring famous female figures in STEM fields throughout history. A personal favourite experience was the ice cream made on the spot with liquid nitrogen by Dorka and Mr Allen- I even heard a student claim it was “better than store-bought”!

The crowd then assembled in the auditorium for a plenary session, delving into the cause for the evening. A significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of STEM disciplines all over the world. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields. In cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals is a woman (UN, 2023).

These topics were addressed by the five fascinating keynote speakers: Dr. Stephania Bonilla-Feret from the UN department of economics gave insight on the significance of the event. Dr. Archana Sharma, a senior researcher at the CERN, and Dr. Maryna Viazovska, EPFL professor and Fields medal winner, spoke of their experiences in physics, maths and academia. Finally, Dr. Eglantine Jamet and Siew Veena Sahi, CEO of Testmate Health, reminded the audience to pursue their passion for STEM- even if it means taking enormous risks.

Later in the evening, students and parents participated in workshops that uncovered unconscious biases, a day-in-the-life of women in STEM and business areas, as well as friendly conversations about their journeys and challenges. 

To have the chance to hear from each speaker was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

It was invaluable to connect with women who push the boundaries of STEM every day in their career, studies, or research, as well as to hear about the obstacles they face. And, most importantly, it was moving to hear the resounding message that young girls can do anything they set their minds to. One of the memorable quotes from the evening was: “If she can see it, she can be it.” By interacting with a female role model, any girl is inspired to believe that her own dream is achievable. 

It’s not easy to measure the impact of inspiring others, but after months of planning and organisation, Potenti’Elle left a bright note on the ISL community and beyond. The event will hopefully return in the years to come. As parents, teenagers, and young girls headed out of the South Building doors, there was a buzzing excitement in the air. In STEM, the future is uncertain- anything could be possible. But one thing is certain: any girl can make it possible.