Making people around the world look and feel good is a serious billion-dollar business largely hidden behind the images of sultry models looking out from the glossy pages of fashion magazines and billboards around the world.
Helping drive the continuing growth of the cosmetics industry is the corps of scientists dedicated to finding new and better product lines that keep up with the changing tastes of men and women across all ages.
Perhaps the most devoted among them are the beauty specialists employed worldwide by L’Oreal, one of the biggest names in the cosmetics industry whose brands include L’Oreal, Maybelline, Garnier, Kerastase and The Body Shop.
But far from depending solely on celebrity endorsers and pretty models to fuel sales, L’Oreal has turned to science to help maintain its global position as a leader in the highly-competitive cosmetics industry.
As if to pay tribute to women—its targeted market—and to stress that the company looks to women beyond good looks, L’Oreal promotes scientific research in its For Women in Science (FWIS) program. FWIS recognizes the important role that science and women play in human development. It is also a timely boost to women scientists who may not always have the support they richly deserve.
L’ Oreal rightly observes that since 1901, there have been over 300 recipients of the Nobel Prize in the sciences, but that only 10 of them are women. Today, however, more women scientists are breaking ground and making a name in the male-dominated field of science as they overcome stubborn biases and the lack of opportunities to maximize their full potential.
Through the FWIS, an international program launched in 1998 by L’Oreal in partnership with Unesco, the cosmetics company hopes to contribute to increasing the ranks of women scientists by recognizing and awarding research grants to those who have demonstrated commitment in their chosen field.
The global program is implemented by L’Oreal in the Philippines through its search for FWIS National Fellows in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology. The program started last year.
As L’Oreal Philippines Managing Director Luc Olivier-Marquet put it, “Scientific excellence has always been at the heart of L’Oreal and everything we do. We invest heavily in research and innovation to ensure that we provide the best in the cosmetics industry. We launched the FWIS National Fellowships in the Philippines to recognize and award Filipina scientists, in the hopes of encouraging the broader involvement of women at all levels of the scientific community.”
Added Maia Ang, L’Oreal corporate communications executive, “We recognize that scientific research is an underestimated key factor of economic, social and cultural progress here in the Philippines, and we believe that we have a responsibility to elevate the quality of life in any country we are present in, in any way we can.”
The first two scientists to be named FWIS National Fellows were Dr. Maria Corazon De Ungria and Dr. Laura T. David, who submitted research proposals related to the Life and Material Sciences. Both were awarded fellowship grants worth P400,000, after going through stringent judging by a jury chaired by Prof. Lourdes Cruz, the first Filipino and first Asean Laureate of the FWIS L’Oreal-Unesco awards.
Dr. De Ungria is the head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory at the Natural Sciences Research Institute of the University of the Philippines. She won a grant for her proposed study of the DNA diversity of the Negrito populations in the Philippines. This is part of an overall program aimed at studying Philippine genetic diversity for anthropological, forensic and medical applications.
Basically, Dr. de Ungria hopes her research would contribute to improving genetic testing in criminal investigations.
In addition, she adds, data generated from the project is expected to serve as the springboard for other genetic studies specifically aimed at improving the health of different (ethnic) groups through a more accurate diagnosis of diseases and the proper administration of medicines specific to their needs.
Dr. David, on the other hand, is a professor at the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines and is also a member of the Technical Committee on Climate Change of the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology and the IGB-Land Ocean Interaction in the Coastal Zone Project Southeast Asia Node Core group.
Her prize money is being used to study the physical characteristics of different regions in the Philippines to determine which of them are more appropriate for mariculture, the cultivation of fish and other marine resources for food.
L’Oreal is now looking for the next batch of National Fellows to follow in the footsteps of Dr. De Ungria and Dr. David whose studies are expected to positively contribute to finding solutions to critical problems hampering Philippine development.
Research proposals related to the Life and Material Sciences must come from applicants with doctorates in any field of science and who are not more than 45 years old. Two fellowship grants, worth P400,000 each, will be given to two deserving women based on the judging criteria of a jury composed of representatives from L’Oreal, Unesco and DOST. Nominations will be accepted from Nov. 2011 until March 2012, with the awardees named in July this year.
“We hope that FWIS and our other programs dedicated to raising awareness about social issues in this country (would) help Filipinos realize that L’Oreal is truly a company that promotes beauty from inside and out,” Ang said.