International Day of Women and Girls in Science at the Chair

Didem Civancik-Uslu, PhD student, and Nur Khalil, technician at the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, send a message to those girls with a scientific vocation to encourage them to get on with science.

¿What do you want to be when you grow up? Children between six and seven years old are projected equally as future scientists and technologists. However, a study published in the journal Science in 2017 shows that, after the age of 8, many girls abandon their scientific dream, claiming it is a career for smart people and they do not look capable. These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early and have an immediate effect on children’s interest.

Image Credits: Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT).

Gender stereotypes in science

Later, it seems that the differences decrease to the point that women currently obtain 65% of university degrees and more than 45% of the doctorates. However, according to the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT in its Spanish acronym), the proportion of women falls as they move forward in the scientific career. This means that there are more men than women in senior positions, such as those of evaluation, management or institutional related; what has been called as the scissor effect.

This tendency is not only present in Spain, but is common in the 28 countries of the European Union. It is for this reason that the current efforts of the FECYT focus on guaranteeing female representation at all levels of the academy, especially in the decision-making and knowledge assessment positions.

Women and science at the Chair

In this regard, and in commemoration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the UNESCO Chair ESCI-UPF interviews its “women in science” . On the one hand, the technician Nur Khalil, specialised in environmental sciences, emphasizes that we must work on the fundamental problem, which is in education and in the society itself. “It also could be addressed from wage equality, which should be reflected and regulated in the scientific consensus.” In addition, she underlines the importance to juggle maternity and work, and points out this aspect as one of the main causes of the scissor effect. “New laws should be promoted or, at least, it would be needed to ensure that the current ones are enforced,” she stresses, bluntly.

On the other hand, Didem Civancik-Uslu, PhD student at the Chair and environmental engineer, stresses that in order to achieve equality between women and men, no prejudices can be accepted according to gender. “It is important to remember what is obvious: both women and men can offer results, teach, publish and lead conferences. Both can do whatever they propose,” underscores the researcher.

In spite of the inequalities still existing, both send a hopeful message to those girls with a scientific vocation. Nur emphasises: “Do not be afraid, trust yourself and get on with science (does not bite). If you like it, there will not be any barriers to you.” At the same time, Didem manifests: “Believe in yourselves, you can do it .”



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