Friday, September 22

“Children should know that they can have a female boss”: debate on ‘Women, innovation and science’

“If men had breasts, seat belts would be different.” This phrase of Teresa Risk WardenSecretary General of Innovation of the Ministry of Science, summarizes well to what extent women have traditionally been relegated in the fields of Technology and Innovation. The reflection has arisen during the digital meeting ‘Woman, innovation and science’ organized this Thursday in sponsored by Acciona and moderated by the editor-in-chief of Gender, Ana Requena Aguilar.

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In the conversation –rebroadcast on streaming for the members of– have also participated Carmen CamunasDirector of hub of Innovation of Accionaand Nerea Luis MinguezaPhD in Computer Science and head of Artificial Intelligence projects in singular.

The guests have analyzed the gap that clearly shows the lower representation of women in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM, in its English acronym) and an even lower presence in the executive and management levels of technology companies. How to close that gap?

The ‘leaking pipe’

Using the simile of ‘the leaking pipe’ as a metaphor for a discriminatory professional career within the STEM disciplines, the experts have detected problems at different stages of this vital journey. For Teresa Risk “we must have a lot of influence on girls, in school settings and do it before, in fifth grade and not in high school”; something in which Camuñas agrees: “You have to get girls to study what they want and not say ‘I’m not worth it, because it’s very difficult and there are only boys’.

You have to get the girls to study what they want

Carmen Camunas
— Director of the Innovation hub of Acciona

In addition, Camuñas has underlined the importance of the role of men, even from childhood: “Children have to be aware that in the future they may have a female boss and absolutely nothing happens”.

They have all shared common experiences in very masculinized careers. “In the University, in research and in business, many women are also lost along the way, due to fatigue, because in the end it is not compatible, because you perceive micro-machisms that are burning you”, pointed out Nerea Luis Mingueza, and emphasized in the importance of women reaching management positions, which is “from where things change and permeate down.” Even getting involved in the personnel selection processes: “Women miss us. We sell ourselves worse. We are victims of impostor syndrome, while many men present themselves without meeting half of the requirements.

In the resumes of the scientists it is seen when they have had a child or have had to take care of close people

Teresa Risk Warden
— Secretary General of Innovation of the Ministry of Science and Innovation

Without losing sight of the workplace, Teresa Risk has recalled that, in addition, the scientific career grows by accumulating ‘papers’ and research projects: “If you have a two-year break, your career does not grow. In the curricula of women scientists you can see when they have had a child or have had to take care of close people”, something that –she has recalled– thanks to the new Science Law will no longer be a disadvantage for researchers: “They will not count for the curricular evaluation –both for men and women– the periods of caring for children or sick people”.

Motherhood and care have focused much of the debate, pointing out the paradoxes generated by a society that does not stop judging women: “If after giving birth you decide not to take a reduced day, you are a bad mother; and if she decides to fuck you, it’s because you’re lazy and you’re not ambitious”, said Camuñas, who has claimed the right to have a “private life” without this undermining his professional career.

Women miss us. We sell ourselves worse. We are victims of impostor syndrome

Nerea Luis Mingueza
— PhD in Computer Science and head of Artificial Intelligence projects at SNGULAR

Finally, the guests have underlined the importance of technological developments and scientific research incorporating the gender perspective, warning of the problem that the design of everyday objects, of computer algorithms, as well as the conduct of clinical studies for medicines , be done only on the male population: “As we bias the sample with which we train the system, what will come out is something that will not work,” warns Teresa Risk.

“The fact that women get involved in the world of research is going to open up the panorama and it is going to help us finally have products that work and, above all, that are not biased”, added Camuñas.