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Female scientists no longer go unnoticed: VUB, ULB and BIMS invited 400 guests to the exclusive opening of ‘Hidden Figures’ on Monday January 30th.

Female scientists help determine history. Also today. But too often they remain unnoticed. High time to provide a podium for them. With that message Caroline Pauwels, rector of Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Yvon Englert, rector of the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Brussels Institute of Mathematics (BIMS) invited no less than 400 guests to an exclusive avant-premiere of the movie Hidden Figures.

 

Pictures of the premiere can be found here.

 

The movie tells the story of Katherine Johnson, Marie Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, three African-American mathematicians. They worked for NASA and were paramount in assuring John Glenn was the first American that orbited earth. Hidden Figures is a film full of respect for the true story of these three women that helped shape human history. Hidden Figures thereby puts the spotlight on the discrimination and shameful concealment of female scientists.

 

The occasion of the film’s release was reason enough for VUB and ULB to underline the importance of women in scientific disciplines and, at the same time, strongly decry any attempts to minimise or deny their role. Ahead of the premiere VUB rector Caroline Pauwels, ULB rector Yvon Englert, mathematician Ann Dooms, geologist Vinciane Debaille and minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda and Telecom Alexander De Croo all spoke.

They each held a short, but powerful plea for more female scientists. They emphasized the importance of social recognition of all those women who dedicated their lives to science, but in doing so largely went unnoticed.

"Mathematics is at the basis of innovation and innovation is at the basis of new mathematics"
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Ann Dooms

Mathematician Ann Dooms is an expert in her field and not afraid of the cameras. In her short presentation she lauded Hidden Figures and expressed her love for the art and power of mathematics.

 

“The movie beautifully illustrates that maths can really make a difference. It shows that mathematics lies at the basis of innovation, and also the other way around, that innovation will always produce new mathematics. I hope that the not so young audience can transfer this passion to the young people around them.”

 

Gender Action Plan

At Flemish universities female professors are few and far between: only 28% of full-time professors are women. And this while plenty of women start an academic career after graduating. To stem this leaky pipeline VUB drew up a Gender Action Plan and focuses on bringing attention to this issue.