Christine Quinn's Inspiring Speech at L'Oreal's Women in Science Awards Ceremony


(Courtesy L'Oreal) L-R: Dr. Jaclyn Winter, Dr. Erin Marie Williams, Dr. Joanna Kelley, Christine Quinn, Dr. Christina Agapakis, Dr. Lilian Childress

You might know L'Oreal from, oh, the frizz-fighting bottle of shampoo on your shower ledge or the volume-boosting mascara in your makeup bag, but did you know that the skincare and cosmetics company is really into science? And not just how-to-make-the-best-lipstick science.

Last night, L'Oreal USA hosted its annual Women in Science Fellowship Awards Ceremony, where the company awarded five post-doctoral researchers—Dr. Christina Agapakis of UCLA; Dr. Lilian Childress of Yale; Dr. Joanna Kelley of Stanford; Dr. Erin Marie Williams of The George Washington University; and Dr. Jaclyn Winter of UCLA—up to $60,000 each to be used towards their work.

On hand to congratulate the women was New York City's first woman Speaker of the City Council, Christine C. Quinn—who's best-known around these parts for her public service,  fighting for job creation, reducing government spending, and working on issues of justice and equality.

We loved her speech last night so much, we recorded it and transcribed it. Check it out, below:
Rebecca [Caruso, EVP L'Oreal USA] thank you very much, I want to thank you and everyone who's a part of L'Oreal for this program, but also for Hairdressers Against AIDS and, clearly, being a company that sees your role as corporate citizen as a very important part of your corporate mission.

I was very excited to be invited today for a couple of reasons. I'm the first woman to be Speaker of the City Council. And, as such, I feel much like the fellows tonight that it's not the sort of thing that's dominated by women.

I have one sibling, a sister, who's 10 years older than I am—my father always said he has two only children. Her name is Ellen, she's 56 and she's a geologist. And when she set out on her path to become a geologist, there were not a lot of women getting geology degrees in her program, at all.

I think both of our interests in fields that are not ones where there are a lot of female role models comes from our late mother, who, when we were kids, made sure we had every lesson in the world—I'm not a scientist, but I went to a bazillion: Animals With Backbones, Animals Without Backbones, Marine Biology, you name a class...

But she made it very clear to us that: one, that we were to do something we loved; two, that we were to succeed at it; and three, that it could be whatever we wanted it to be.

And I think that foundation is really why my sister and I went out and found what we love to do, and do it. And it's so exciting to get to see all of you here today, as L'Oreal Fellows, picking a field that is not historically dominated by women and going out and not just doing it, but doing it at the highest, most significant level.

Now, I don't actually fully understand what these women are doing.

One of our women tonight investigates the decision-making processes and abilities of early-human ancestors as evidenced through their selection of raw materials for the production and use of Early Stone Age technologies.

Another focuses on engineering new relationships between micro-organisms—I need help from that fellow, because if you can figure that out, you can tell me how to get votes out of people who are inclined to vote the wrong way.

Another explores the genomic basis of adaptation to environments containing high levels of hydrogen sulfide...

Like I said, I don't really understand. But what I do understand is that within that, and within all of your research, are the potentials for making discoveries. Making discoveries that will help us understand the past better, so we can understand the future, and can understand the present. Potential discovery of new medications, or how the food we eat can make us healthy or less healthy—or discoveries we can't even imagine what they could possibly be.

And what I think is so exciting about this program and all of you is that you decided not to accept what is. You've decided not to accepted the is of men dominating science. You've decided not to accept that all we know is what we know, and have gone out there to understand the past and the unknown in a deeper way that is going to help all of us in this room, and all of us beyond—the mind can't even see the potential that you see.

I also want to thank you because by each one of you doing this, and by L'Oreal promoting these great women, you are sending a message to those other young girls out there who are interested in science but are distracted by people saying "Clothes are more important." Or don't think it's cool to get an A in physics. Or don't think it's cool to take college classes in high school because others make them think that. You are going to show them it is cool.
Check out more information on L'Oreal's Women in Science fellowship program here.
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