More space for women in the world of science

In the process of doing justice to the contribution of women to humanity, it is worth recognizing and encouraging the penetration of science. The world celebrated this engagement on February 11, declaring the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

By dedicating an awareness-raising day, the United Nations sought this year to promote the full and equal participation and access of women and girls in the field, which has been so prominent in these two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission has recognized that science and gender equality are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Even before Marie Curie, a pioneer in radioactivity research and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes in different disciplines – chemistry and physics – women had explored and advanced science, often facing oppression and often invisible. It remains to be revealed how many have done so in Puerto Rico at other times. It is known today, for example, that the suffrage of Aguadilla Ana Roqué left behind a unique piece of research dedicated to her 30 years, titled Antillian Botany, that was underestimated and then archived for decades.

Today, Puerto Rican women in the sciences are more visible and many hold senior positions in the pharmaceutical and aerospace industries, innovation and in academic institutions that advance science, among other fields. However, there are open spaces.

According to the United Nations, 33% of the people devoted to research are women. They also make up 28% of engineering graduates and 22% of artificial intelligence experts. Adding more to these disciplines will allow us to broaden our consideration in the search for innovative and sustainable solutions to humankind’s current and future challenges.

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Among the data provided by the organization, the report highlights that “women tend to receive more modest research grants than their male colleagues, and although they represent 33.3 percent of all researchers, only 12 percent of members of the national scientific academies are from Women”.

Here on the island, data from 2017-2018 shows that nearly 28% of professors in the science departments of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez were women. The Department of Physics and Marine Sciences did not have a single professor at that time. And in the Faculty of Engineering they were about 25%.

Between 2015-2016 and 2020-2021, the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras awarded 3,679 degrees, 62% to women. The same percentage is reflected among those with PhDs: 332 women out of a total of 532. In the first semester of the current academic year, 64 percent of the 3,019 enrollees were students. Just over 4% were pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in the natural sciences; 13% are pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in social sciences and 2% are enrolled in information sciences and technology.

Open spaces mean education from childhood to value each person and to recognize that a diversity of perspectives enriches research, science, and society.

In this sense, Puerto Rico has valuable initiatives that accompany and make visible the presence of women in science. Among other projects, it was announced this week that Ciencia Puerto Rico has distributed 250 posters and other resources to 50 seventh through 12th grade science and math teachers to highlight Latino scholars, mostly from Puerto Rico, in the classroom. Similarly, other Puerto Rican scholars take time away from their busy schedules to make scientific knowledge more accessible and act as mentors for girls and young women.

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En tiempos en que las mujeres han orbitado el planeta como astronautas y han sido galardonadas con el máximo premio por sus descubrimientos, es preciso derrumbar los estereotipos que asignan género a las profesionili zar dem y a visibás a Sciences. For this too, it is necessary to promote healthy and safe spaces, and to provide more opportunities for women to develop from their early childhood an appreciation and interest in science.

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