University of Warwick: UNESCO and L’Oréal honour Warwick student as top young female scientist

Arij Yehya is studying for a PhD with Warwick’s Department of Psychology, and earlier this month she received a ‘L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2021 Young Talent Award’ for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The award was presented to her at the Expo 2020 Dubai, during a prestigious ceremony hosted by the Fondation L’Oréal and UNESCO to celebrate remarkable discoveries and achievements by women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) across the region.

Originally from Lebanon and residing in Qatar, Arij was one of only five PhD students from the whole MENA region to be honoured with this award, which acknowledges the quality of her groundbreaking research, her contribution to solving global challenges, and her role as an inspirational figure for future generations of female scientists.

At the heart of Arij’s research is identifying factors that drive the widening of the gender gap in personality traits, to further evaluate current and future gender policies.

She explains: “My research attempts to uncover the factors driving wider gender differences in personality traits in cultures with higher human development and better gender equality. Learning more about these factors might provide us with important insight on the interaction between human biology and the environment and the role each play in shaping personality traits.”

On winning the ‘L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2021 Young Talent Award’, Arij said: It is an honour to be recognized as one of the young talents in the field of science. This prestigious award feels like an acknowledgement of the work that I have done so far, and it is validating for me as a researcher and as women working in science in the MENA region.”

Arij spoke about how her time at Warwick has benefitted her so far: “I am educated by top researchers in the field of Psychology and at the same time I am learning transferable skills, such as science communication and teamwork. All of this boosts my ability to be a well-rounded scientific researcher so I believe being at Warwick is one of the most important milestones in my career.”

Reflecting on the next generation, Arij offered some advice for women and girls who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM. She said: “follow your passion, make the best out of each opportunity and reach out to mentors who are dedicated to train and support young talents.”

‘L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2021 Young Talent Award’ winners onstage in Dubai

Professor Anu Realo from Warwick’s Department of Psychology — and Arij’s PhD supervisor — commented: “I’m immensely proud of Arij for receiving this prestigious international award and for being recognised as one of the rising talents in the MENA region, this is a truly fantastic achievement and very well deserved.

“Arij’s PhD research addresses a fundamental question in the study of individual and cultural differences—how and why women and men differ in their personality traits. Explaining the paradoxical findings on the observed gender differences in personality across cultures may be the key to a better understanding of how human biology interacts with social and cultural environment in the formation of personality traits. Arij’s PhD research will advance work in the field and wider society by helping to increase our understanding of different genders and the possible links between personality and gender identity.”

UNESCO and the Fondation L’Oréal launched the ‘For Women in Science’ programme to recognize the contribution of Women to the advancement of Sciences, to raise awareness about gender biases in Sciences and to inspire and motivate the new generations to become the change-makers of tomorrow.

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