Part of a UNESCO report on women in science around the world, countries were coloured in according to what proportion of their researchers were women – the more male-dominated the research community, the darker the shade of blue; the more women, the brighter the pink.
Sticking out from the crowd in Asia, Myanmar lit up, the pinkest of them all. According to the tables, 85.5% of researchers in Myanmar were women. Worldwide, the figure is less than 30%.
While the figure might not be as high as 85.5%, it still appears that most researchers in Myanmar are women.
Dr Thazin Han, head of food research at the Burmese government’s Department of Research and Innovation, describes her work on using shrimp shell waste in the production of fertiliser as her “most rewarding research”.
“The result is very meaningful for our farmers,” she says. Nine out of every 10 of the professors in her specialism are women, Dr Han says..
“Due to Myanmar’s economy, men need to find money for supporting their family,” Dr Han says.
“My salary, at executive level, is about $300 [£230] a month.”
That’s not enough to support a family, she says, so men choose other professions
Let’s look at two other countries where most researchers are women.
In Thailand, it’s 53.3%, while in Tunisia, it’s 53.9%.
Unesco says that both of those figures are “realistic”.
Prize-winning organic chemist Prof Patchanita Thamyongkit, vice-dean of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, was mistaken for her own secretary at a conference in 2008 – the organiser had assumed the professor would be a man.
She says the Thai royal family has “led the way” in encouraging the country’s women to go to university.
Princess Chulabhorn studied chemistry, graduating in 1979 and going on to promote science in the country.
She became the first Asian scientist to be invited to join the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry as an honorary fellow.
“In other countries, they say, ‘Oh, you have the Chemist princess,'” Prof Patchanita Thamyongkit says.
An academic research job can be attractive to women for other reasons, though.
Thailand grants just three months of statutory maternity leave. And a career in academia “is not bad for being a mum”.
“There’s a school at the university where children can attend from Kindergarten to the 12th Grade – as soon as a faculty member gets pregnant, they can register their child,” Prof Patchanita Thamyongkit says.
In Tunisia, there are other challenges facing women in science.
Prof Oum Kalthoum Ben Hassine is a marine biologist who studies the biodiversity of the Mediterranean. She was born in southern Tunisia – and says conservative attitudes nearly cost her a scientific career.
“At the age of 12, my family wanted to remove me from school to get married,” she says, describing her route into science as an “obstacle course”.
She says she was the first girl from her city to go to high school, where a science teacher inspired her to pursue the discipline.
And certain fields are more male-dominated than others.
In Tunisia, women make up 76% of PhD graduates in life sciences but just 41% in engineering, according to the EU’s Shemera project.
The country also struggles with unemployment – and this isn’t evenly split across the genders.