“I can not anymore. There comes a time when you ask yourself if you want to continue like this for the next 15 years. And I don’t want to. The trips, the endless days, the lack of schedule. I always have the impression that I have to do twice as much to get the same recognition as my peers. It’s over”. It is the testimony of María Núñez, a 52-year-old engineer from Granada and the director of an Andalusian technology company who has asked not to be identified. He has three children and two, a boy and a girl, are now following in his footsteps at university. “I hope the situation changes, especially for her,” he says. Núñez, who is now preparing for examinations to be a Secondary Education teacher, is an example of the Study on the situation of women in scientific careers in Spain, prepared by the Ministry of Science, and which, based on a survey of 5,606 people (61% women), shows the gradual abandonment of science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers (known as STEM for its acronym in English) by them. Young women under 25 are 57% in public research organizations. Ten years later they are less than half (48%) and only reach 29% with more than 65 years.
In Spain, according to INE data collected by this study, the research groups 234,798 people, 48% of whom are women. But this joint career, motivated by the “preferences and skills developed during secondary education and contact with teachers who acted as references”, is declining in equality as the years go by.
“There is a crucial school stage in which, if girls who are inclined to science are not supported in their capacities, they are not offered female references nor are they known to convey the potential that STEM careers have to solve everyday problems They come to believe that they are not qualified to dedicate themselves to research and opt for other professional options. The future world cannot afford to lose that talent, “says María Blasco, molecular biologist and director of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group and the National Center for Oncological Research in an initiative of this institution on the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which is celebrated every February 11.
The causes of the abandonment of scientific careers are multiple. In the survey, the researchers point out these: the greater burden of tasks and administrative functions that falls on them more frequently than on them, job instability, excessive hours, favoritism and discrimination by sex, difficulties in exercising role of caregiver, salary differences, different visibility of scientific results, social pressure to climb in the face of difficulties to promote and the hostile hostile work environment, where they report sexist behaviors.
“I have not suffered him, for now. But I do know colleagues who have told me about cases of discrimination, ”says Yolanda Sánchez, a 22-year-old student at the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Seville. According to the survey of the Ministry of Science, 8.6% of those surveyed have suffered sexual harassment and 14 attitudes and situations of disrespect. “9.7% of them and 9.4% of them knew someone who had suffered sexual harassment,” the study concludes. According to the researchers, this recurrence is produced by a “permissive and silent culture with respect to this type of attitudes, fostered by the power that men have and the protection they maintain among themselves, and the absence of more forceful measures.”
The circumstances used as elements of harassment are, always according to the Government’s study, “motherhood, care and the supposed lower capacities of women.” “A zero tolerance response in the institutions is essential to prevent and, where appropriate, adequately address these forms of gender violence, which are also an occupational health problem,” the study concludes.
A zero tolerance response in institutions is essential to prevent and, where appropriate, adequately address these forms of gender violence, which are also an occupational health problem.
Study on the situation of women in scientific careers in Spain
“Only with the full incorporation of female talent to the different spheres and areas of responsibility of the sectors based on science and innovation will we be able to move towards a more prosperous economy”, highlights Ana Polanco, president of the Spanish Association of Bioempresas (Asebio), who launched this Thursday a campaign on the importance of women in science.
Carmen Vela (Guadalajara, 65 years old), biochemist, businesswoman, Spanish researcher and founding partner of AMIT (Association of Women Researchers and Technologists), has participated in this campaign. “The numbers do not accompany us. We are improving, but the speed is very low. We cannot say the same from the perceptual point of view. There is no one today capable of denying you that the presence of women in science is undervalued and that it is a problem ”, she says.
“There is a tremendous turning point: motherhood. It has an impact on your career, as, depending on where you are, it can be hard to balance. For this reason, when a woman leads a team, it is easier for there to be more women, because, in a way, we understand better what this stage entails ”, adds Marisol Quintero (Valencia, 42 years old), CEO of Highlight Therapeutics, a company dedicated to cancer therapies.