#BalanceforBetter is this year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2019 #IWD2019; meaning better the balance, better the world. The campaign calls for everyone, men and women to ‘build a gender balanced world where everyone has a part to play.’

This year’s theme; the future is exciting. Let’s build a gender-balanced world. Everyone has a part to play – all the time, everywhere. From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence. Balance drives a better working world. Let’s all help create a #BalanceforBetter.

“Balance is not a women’s issue, it is a business issue. The race is on for the gender balanced boardroom, a gender balanced government, gender balanced media coverage, a gender balance of employees, more gender balance in wealth, sports coverage etc. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. There must be collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender balanced world.”

Within our €4m Marie Curie innovative training research project PROTECTED (protection against endocrine disruptors), I believe we are helping to achieve that balance. Nine out of our fifteen strong team of early stage researchers are female. At first that might appear to be an imbalance in their favour but that’s genuinely not the case.

In our search to create a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative scientific early stage researchers, this group was selected on individual merit. That nine happen to be female, a positive indicator that progress is being made in achieving #BalanceforBetter, with more women opting for careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

It’s great to see women now being better represented among higher paid workers and excelling in fields traditionally regarded as male preserves. As our project develops, I’m proud to watch individuals flourish, like Vittoria Malia participating in Kjemi (Norwegian for chemistry) in a competition ‘to help people fall in love with science,’ at the University of Oslo.
Our Chiara Talia blog about the importance of communicating what we do and the health benefits of our scientific research to the wider public which she presented ‘Pechakucha’ (the art of concise presentation Tokyo-style) at a European Researcher night in Aberdeen.

All our ESRs, both male and female are making an important individual and collective contribution to the success of PROTECTED and that’s exactly how it should be.

As an international consortium, I believe PROTECTED in the round, is striking the right #BalanceforBetter with both genders playing an equal and valuable role in training to be the next generation.

It’s our collective responsibility to provide them with the multi-disciplinary skills needed in the emerging field of ED’s and their mixtures to curtail the epidemic in endocrine related impacts and non-discriminatory diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes and infertility.

In total our project involves 13 organisations across nine countries. Among that talent, we are lucky to have eminent scientists such as Professor Merete Eggesbo the National Institute of Public Health Oslo, Professor Paul Fowler from the University of Aberdeen, Professor Erik Ropstad from the Norwegian Univesity of Life Sciences, Dr Isabelle Oswald from the National Institute of Agricultural Research Toulouse, Dr Gudrun Kausel from the University Austral of Chile, Dr Gunnar Eriksen from the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, Dr Marc Muller and Professor Marie-Louise Scippo from the University of Liege, Dr Bart Van der Burg from Biodetection Systems Ltd Amsterdam and Dr Rafael Gozalbes from ProtoQSAR Valencia to mentor and support the ESRs helping them to develop the innovative analysis capabilities required for the risk assessment and communication of the impact of ED’s and their mixtures on health and the environment.

We’ve also been supported by world leading expert Professor Juliette Legler from Utrecht University who, last year gave a special guest lecture at QUB’s prestigious Institute for Global Food Security on whether the increasing use of and exposure to environmental chemicals such as plastics, pesticides, personal care products, household and other consumer goods could be linked to obesity and diabetes epidemics.

What better role models to deliver #Balanceforbetter, than these?