Science and technology also have a woman's name. This is the slogan with which the sixth edition of Wisibilízalas, the international contest that works to break STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) gender stereotypes in educational centers, has begun. The participation will be open until February 11, 2022.
Founded in 2016 by the director of the Technology Area of the UPF Barcelona School of Management, PhD Ana Freire, the project is organized jointly with UPF-BSM, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and, for the first time since its creation, also with the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)- Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities. In addition, the project has the support of collaborating companies such as CaixaBank TECH, Oracle Academy and Nae, among others.
The role of institutions such as UPF-BSM is crucial, as they are the direct access to labor market and the ones that have the tools to be agents of change
"Technology is suffering a crisis of diversity and society as a whole must take responsibility for controlling where we are heading," says the founder of Wisibilízalas. In this context, the role of educational institutions such as UPF-BSM is essential, as they are the "direct access to the labor market and the ones that have the tools to be agents of change," says Freire.
"The technology labor market has a high demand for STEM professionals, but most of them are men," denounces the engineer and PhD in Computer Science, who points out that if technology is created in homogeneous teams, "we can find ourselves with undesirable results." This was evidenced by Volvo in 2019 by admitting that women had a higher risk of being injured in a car accident because crash tests were conducted with male autonomy mannequins.
The technology labor market has a high demand for STEM professionals, bust most of them are men, which is why universities must take actions to awaken STEM vocations in the youngest students
This demand for diversity, says Freire, must be considered from different points of view, not only in terms of gender. "I give as an example the case of facial recognition technologies, which only work for one skin color, as recently denounced by Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at MIT, whose case was reflected in the Netflix documentary Coded Bias".
In light of this situation, the director of the UPF-BSM Technology Area believes that universities "must detect irregularities -such as highly masculinized careers- and take actions to awaken STEM vocations in the youngest students". "In this way, perhaps in the not too distant future, the numbers entering STEM careers will be more balanced in terms of gender," she comments.
"One of the main goals of current edition is to increase the participation of centers in rural areas", says the founder of the project, since "it is precisely in these places where there is a greater lack of STEM female references". Indeed, one of the causes of the gender gap in scientific and technological careers is the lack of references for future professionals, which is why it is important to promote interest and commitment from the institutions.
One of the main goals of current edition is to increase the participation of centers in rural areas, where there is a greater lack of STEM female references
Wisibilízalas is aimed at schools and high schools and encourages them to use web pages to highlight women scientists, computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians who inspire us and who work every day to make women's potential increasingly visible in STEM careers. Over the first five editions, the initiative has attracted more than 3,700 students from as many as five different countries who have created more than 1,200 web profiles of women STEM professionals.
This year's edition will close the registration form on February 11, coinciding with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The winning projects will be announced in June, when the prizes, valued at up to 1,000 euros, will be awarded.