Gender equality in science, we are not there yet

Mónica Vara Pérez · 01-09-2020 10:00 · Gender equality in science Science Chronicles

Despite being in 2020, gender equality is still an issue in many aspects of our daily life and science is not an exception. To promote women’s role in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-related education, research and innovation, the 11th of February was proclaimed in 2015 as the “International Day of Women and Girls in Science”. This day, together with the well-established March 8th (already declared in 1977), highlights a period when multiple institutional bodies and/or individuals discuss or even strike for women’s rights. For this reason and under the event series “Girls and Women in Science” supported by CEBE, SPAIN Arts & Culture - Belgium (Spanish Embassy in Belgium), Instituto Cervantes and the delegation of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) in Belgium, two roundtables were organized.

19/02/2020 - “Women and Science” – organized by Instituto Cervantes together with CSIC

In this roundtable, two Spanish scientists (Dr. Laura Cruz and Dr. Nuria Flames) as well as two Spanish scientific policy-makers (Clara de la Torre and Lina Gálvez) discussed the hurdles that women face during their scientific career.

06/03/2020 - “Towards gender equality: are we on the right track?” – organized by CEBE

From CEBE, we felt that answering this question required experience, multiple points of view and, overall, facts. Therefore, we gathered scientists and specialists in gender equality in science, who not only presented data and the current approaches to tackle the gender gap but also commented on them during a moderated discussion. For this roundtable, we were delighted to count with:

  • Flora de Pablo, group leader in the “Margarita Salas Center for Biology Research” (CSIC, Spain). She was also a founding member and first president of the Association of Researcher and Technologist Women (known in Spanish as AMIT). During her presentation, she focused on the CSIC situation throughout the last 30 years.
  • Nellie Konijnendijk, biologist and expert on gender and diversity within the university environment, currently working as HR advisor for the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). As an expert in academic unconscious bias, Nellie showed how the gender distribution in academia in Belgium is very similar to the Spanish and European one and she explained the contribution of unconscious bias to the gender gap in science.
  • Tania van Loon, chemist and current president of the Belgian Association for Women in Science (BeWiSe). She covered the gender gap in industry, focusing in scientific and R&D areas, thanks to her experience in consulting and the European Commission. During her talk, Tania warned that the data availability and quality regarding gender equality in companies is far from complete.
  • Daniel Pérez, physicist in the Chalmers Technical University (Sweden) and science communicator with a deep interest in the origin of the gender gap in STEM degrees. He covered some data on the prevalence of women studying STEM degrees in Spanish universities.

The variety of data and topics introduced by our speakers raised multiple questions and points of view and due to the time limit of the event, only some of them could be approached. If you would like to read more about the main points addressed during the event, click on the following items.

This roundtable was full of information, discussion and food for thought. Our speakers brought a lot of facts and insights that contributed to formulate more questions and to keep the audience engaged. However, it was clear from the discussion that, despite all the advances made in the last years, the answer to this question is still NO. Nevertheless, several solutions and advice were raised that will hopefully contribute to turn this NO into a YES in the near future. And from CEBE, we look forward to bringing you the advances in this matter that concerns us all.

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This blog is supported by the Arts and Culture section of the Spanish Embassy in Belgium and by the Brussels section of the “Instituto Cervantes”, under the SciComm initiative #SPreadScience.

Instituto Cervantes Arts and Culture section of the Spanish Embassy

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