We support the International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 11, International Day of Women and Girls in Science, from the Institut de la Màcula and the Barcelona Macula Foundation we add to this global initiative to contribute to remove prejudices and gender stereotypes in science and research
In the past 15 years, the international community has made great efforts to inspire and promote the participation of women and girls in science. However, women continue to encounter obstacles. The gender gap in the sectors of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has persisted for years all over the world. For this reason, the United Nations proclaimed February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science to encourage reflection on the issue and bring about a change in the dominant dynamics.
The Institut de la Màcula and the Barcelona Macula Foundation (BMF), as organisations in which science and research predominate, have added their voices to this global initiative to remove prejudices and gender stereotypes. In addition, the people in their work team (ophthalmologists, specialists and care team) are mostly women. We spoke to one of them, Miriam García, optometrist, clinical trial coordinator and also the mother of a girl, about her relationship with research and how she views her daughter's opportunities in the future.
How did you discover your vocation as a scientist and researcher?
Ever since I was young, I have wanted to know the reason for things; at secondary school I was lucky enough to have teachers who aroused my interest in science. This can be really important when you’re full of doubt about what you want to do in the future. By the time I had started participating in trials, research projects and collaborations with other centres, I was sure that this was the direction in which I wanted to go. It is really enriching to learn from what you are doing and what others are doing.
How do you think the full and fair participation of women should be fostered in the scientific world?
This isn’t an easy question to answer as there are many related factors. For example, many women devote themselves to science but it is also about the role these women play and what visibility they are given. From my experience as a member of research projects in the H2020 European framework and other competitive calls, I see steps being taken by the institutions to remedy the situation. The evaluation criteria of the current calls include gender equity indicators and they place great emphasis on this. Not only are the proportion of women taken into account but also the responsibility they hold. This obliges entities to establish human resource strategies (such as the monitoring of professional careers, selection and promotion policies etc.) that ensure the same opportunities for women when they access roles as project leaders. (PI).
I rate this type of strategy very highly although the overall results are still far below what they should be. Nevertheless, I have participated in some highly encouraging projects where there was a large number of women with responsibility.
Do you see this as an issue that needs to be discussed?
Women are everywhere and we have to reflect this. In this regard, I try to participate in any initiatives promoted by the Institut de la Màcula and the BMF’s Management and communication area in order to highlight our role in research and normalise it.
When it comes to the day-to-day routine of the surgery and projects, I would stress the effort that women must make to reconcile their working and personal lives. Some people might think this is an issue that has already been overcome, but there is still a great amount of work remaining.
How do you see your daughter’s future and how do you assess the initiatives to awaken callings, whether they are from research centres, institutions or the school?
I would like my daughter to do what she wants. How could it be any other way? At home, we will support her in whatever makes her happy, whatever her choice is. The adults who collaborate in their education need to believe in it too. My daughter is still young, but we try to arouse her curiosity through play, stories, music, painting etc.
In terms of initiatives, there are now proposals such as "Setmana de la Ciència" (Science Week) in which activities are organised for all ages that arouse the curiosity of children and young people. Schools and teachers also do some very good work in this aspect by creating work spaces and environments and introducing female references so that girls and boys can imagine a future in which everyone has the same opportunities from a very young age. There is still a long way to go, but this is the way to open the range of opportunities for any child from an early age.