11F: International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Last Friday, 11th of February, was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This date was declared by the United Nations (UN) in 2015 with the aim of achieving full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.

As the United Nations (UN) state "a significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields".

In fact,

  • Women are typically given smaller research grants than men and, while they represent 33.3% of all researchers, only 12% of members of national science academies are women.

  • In cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals (22%) is a woman.

  • Despite a shortage of skills in most of the technological fields driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, women still account for only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics.

  • Women researchers tend to have shorter, less well-paid careers. Their work is underrepresented in high-profile journals and they are often passed over for promotion.

These are only a few facts that show the issues and barriers affecting women in science, which are by no means exclusive to them, being experienced, even in worse degrees, by other minority groups. Women who experience other types of discrimination based on their identities are heavily impacted by this intersectionality: "the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”.

One of the positive outcomes of the 11th of February is that, since it was established, many scientific institutions join efforts every year to make visible the scientific work and groundbreaking results achieved by their women colleagues. There are also an increasing number of programs to empower young girls by exposing them to role models of successful women in science and technology.

The NRT project is very committed with the promotion of gender equality in science and therefore has organised several outreach activities in schools, both online and in person, where some of the women of the team, scientists and engineers, have talked about their work and professional trajectory with the students.

From 7th to 14th February, several talks were organised in local schools in the Canary Islands. Here we share a few images:

Four women stand next to a screen depicting the NRT against a nebula space background.
Optical engineers Marta Escriche (2) and Ana Marcos (3) and Astrophysicists Maider Insausti (4) and Sandra Benítez (1).

Image of a classroom and a woman giving a presentation about the telescope.
The team visited several schools in Tenerife and talked about their work with the students.

Image of zoom presentation with the speaker and school in the top right hand corner
The team also gave online presentations to schools about astrophysics.

Currently, there are 5 women scientists and engineers working within the NRT project. They are:

  • Helen Jermak: Project Scientist: responsible for defining the science case for the NRT and leading the science working group discussions.

  • Marta Escriche: Optical Engineer, she is working on the primary mirror's design and the scientific instruments.

  • Maider Insausti: Astrophysicist, with many years of experience in astronomical instrumentation. Previously worked on the primary mirror's design and is now coordinating the creation of the Center for Advanced Optics. She will lead the fabrication process of the NRT 18 segmented mirrors.

  • Ana Marcos: Optical Engineer, she is an expert on the coating and polishing of mirrors. She works for the Center for Advanced Optics and will participate in the fabrication process of the NRT mirrors.

  • Sandra Benítez: Astrophysicist and science communicator. She will be the outreach officer until February 2022.

We are hoping to welcome many more in the upcoming years! If you are curious you can meet the rest of the NRT team here.