The percentage of female researchers in Latin America is among the highest in the world. It has reached 44 per cent, compared with the global average of 28 per cent. However, a gender gap persists, standing in the way of women scientists having the same opportunities and recognition as their male colleagues.
This continuing gap, and the importance of including the gender dimension in research and funding, are among the key topics in this interview Julia Tagüeña, deputy director of scientific development at Mexico’s National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT), ahead of the Gender Summit due to take place in London this month.
Discussions at past Gender Summits have maintained that science is not neutral, and that it is necessary to move towards a paradigm where science is sensitive to the gender dimension. How do you imagine this new paradigm taking shape in the Latin American region?
I am increasingly convinced that it is necessary to include gender sensitivity in research anywhere in the world. And I imagine a paradigm that includes more inclusions — that is, that includes diversity as the central axis — because the evidence tells us that diverse groups do better research. When you have a broader view of research, you do better science. An example is heart attacks in women. As the symptomatology is different for men and women, and given that the most well-known symptomatology is that of men, women do not recognise it when they are having a heart attack and do not go to the hospital on time. Another example is the safety belts that were initially designed from male prototypes, and later companies realised that they did not work properly in women because they simply have a different anatomy. So if we have a paradigm in which research and technology takes into account and addresses these differences, we will be enriching people's lives.
“In Mexico, through CONACYT, we have taken actions, on the one hand, of gender equality and, on the other, of incorporating gender analysis in research,”
In addition to improving quality of life, can the gender dimension in research promote development?
How, and from whom, should the investment come from to strengthen the number and relevance of women in STEM research?
Do you see significant differences between conditions in Latin America and globally?
What we know from UNESCO statistics is that Latin America is one of the regions with the highest number of women scientists, and that in the face of the social problems of our region, educated women have more opportunities than men who are not educated [at the same level]. The problem is that in most countries, women do not manage to reach leadership positions or decision-making roles as often as men do. The wage gap and the difficulty in combining parenting with academic life continue being challenges. But I also see that it is a generational issue, and that more and more young women are occupying those positions of leadership. We will see a progressive change.
Cover image credit: Copyright: Courtesy of Julia Tagüeña/SciDev.Net