In Spain, half of the people with university studies are women. This proportion, nevertheless, is not fulfilled if it is analyzed by areas: women only represent 25% of students in scientific careers such as Physics, Mathematics or Engineering, and less than 12% in computer science, according to Efe.
The alarming thing is that this bias starts at school: at 15 years of age only 4.2% of adolescents want to dedicate themselves to one of the STEM areas: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
According to the UN, currently less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women and, although more girls attend school than before, they seem to lose interest in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as they reach adolescence. To reverse this situation, in 2015 the UN proclaimed February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, an initiative that urges countries to promote equality, promote scientific vocations in girls and give visibility to women in science.
What is lacking? According to the agency, the challenge is to put an end to the myth that girls do not like science and other gender stereotypes, in addition to increasing investment in training. According to a study by the Camilo José Cela University (UCJC) based on the data from the PISA 2015 report, from a young age, girls feel the social pressure of the macho culture and need more self-confidence to feel that they dominate science subjects.
Another study published in Science in 2018 states that up to 6 years old girls look the same as boys but from that age they begin to associate brilliance with masculinity, in adolescence their anxiety increases, and by the time they arrive at the University the lack of self-confidence is a fact.
For those who finally choose to dedicate themselves to science, whether in research or teaching, the working world is far from easy: it is an obstacle course "in which women have fewer opportunities," warns the director of the National Center of Scientific Investigations (CNIO), María Blasco.
"There are studies that show that for a job that requires experience in STEM disciplines there is much more likelihood that, on equal merit, a male will be hired," explains Dr. Egela Nieto, one of the scientists in Biochemistry. most awarded in Spain and more involved with the fight for equality.
To this must be added the added pressure felt by women "who see how the quality of their work, and even more their competence to develop it, is more subject to scrutiny than those of their male colleagues" and all this without forgetting that the moment The promotion of a woman's career usually coincides with her time as a mother. "This is pressure," says Nieto.
The result is an evident vertical gap: in Spain there is only 18% of women in charge of research centers, and only one, Rosa Menéndez -president of the Higher Council of Scientific Research-, directs a Public Research Organization.
The situation is replicated in teaching: at the head of the 50 Public Universities there are only eight rectors, according to the latest biannual equality survey of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.
"Celebrating the initiative is very important for many reasons, the first is to note the lower participation of women in science and particularly in the STEM disciplines," says Nieto.
But, in addition, "it seems obvious that girls (and society in general) need more references." They need to know the work, achievements and successes of scientific women, often invisible, "laments Nieto.
"February 11 is a day to promote scientific vocations in girls but also to congratulate ourselves for the achievements made by women in science, I hope there will come a day when this is not necessary because it is natural", the scientist comments.
For this year, the initiative February 11, which celebrates its third edition, has planned more than 2,200 activities that will be developed until the 15th of this month in about 800 educational centers, to which numerous research centers, universities, have added. museums, cultural centers, technology companies, libraries and even bars.
Most of the initiatives will be taught by women who will talk about their personal experience and serve as a reference for girls, but the offer is varied.
From the program L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science, the cosmetics company has organized a workshop with employees who have studied STEM and who will teach girls how to make their own cosmetic hair product, while the Fundación Telefónica and the Ministry of Industry Trade and Tourism have organized a meeting for 80 girls with ten female referents of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Big Data.
The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, for its part, will dedicate its interactive workshop to the awarded women but above all to all those who were unjustly forgotten by the Nobel Prize (599 awarded to 17 women), while the National Center for Oncological Research ( CNIO) has launched its own informative campaign on the networks.