This Thursday, February 11, is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The date was approved by the United Nations General Assembly, in order to achieve access and full and equitable participation in science for women and girls.
“This day is a reminder that women and girls play a fundamental role in science and technology communities, also that their participation must be strengthened,” according to the page of the United Nations Educational Organization, the Science and Culture (Unesco). The Third Status of the Human Rights of Women in Costa Rica, indicates that in 2019, only 37% of women graduated from engineering careers.
From the family
Giselle Tamayo Castillo, President of the Board of Directors of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (Conicit) of Costa Rica, was emphatic in indicating that motivation comes from within the family.
“Girls don’t get that encouragement from home. They may be receiving it, perhaps, in schools. But at home it is the task of parents and siblings to encourage them to ask; that they do experiments, above all, because science is about asking questions,” said Tamayo. She pointed out that there are stereotypes, because parents see girls as “their little princess.”
“When they reach an age that they should like math, they don’t like it that much, because they feel they don’t have the skills. The boys were encouraged to measure things and build, but the girls were not,” she added.
She stated that currently a law is needed that promotes true gender equality and not public policies. At present there is a public policy on Science and Technology, but in Tamayo’s opinion it lacks strength and economic content. “What we have to have is a clear law and a line. Making a policy is not difficult, it can be done, but without economic content, it is really very difficult,” said Tamayo.
Female Education in Science and Technology
In the study called “Female Education in Science and Technology: a theme of development, equity and competitiveness”, prepared by the State of the Nation concludes that, in 2019, out of every 10 professionals graduated from science and technology-related careers , only two were women.
In 2000, the number of female graduates from related majors was 3. Tamayo, who is a chemist by training and profession, stressed that the click of the issue comes from the family, going through school and college and ending in university.
“We must make important affirmative policies, strongly attack workplace harassment and sexual harassment in the professional part. You have to attack in a positive way and not from a criminal point of view,” she said.
She added that “if we talk about February 11th, the Day of Women and Girls in Science and all that transition from girls to women for me, the family plays a very important role. It is the family where that girl spends more time”.
She commented that the Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications (Micitt) and the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) hold interesting workshops, in which girls and boys coexist with science.
“It must be inclusive and not exclusive, we are a society, but there is always a dichotomy and it must be annulled, so we must incorporate everyone,” she said. Drawing attention in the sense that while it is true the technology is impressive and striking “but it comes from science.” She stressed that there is biology, geology, chemistry and physics, so he advocated that workshops and initiatives in the branch should be more comprehensive.
A Tica in the Netherlands
Tica Andrea Mangel is a chemical engineer, located in the Netherlands, where she is involved in renewable energy research. She recalled that science has always attracted her attention and she noted that her mother always instilled that desire to ask questions and the curiosity of how things work.
“I don’t know how I got to chemical engineering. It was a bit of a coincidence and I started to see what I wanted to do when I finished school. (…) I always liked mathematics, science and chemistry very much and in my house since we were children they told us that things could be done, that anything was possible”, she said. Pointing out that she has two brothers and that all three played with the same toys: with legos, dolls and others, because there was not much difference in terms of roles.
“I started looking at everything at the University of Costa Rica (UCR). Although I had said that I did not want engineering, somehow I ended up in it, mostly because of the courses,” said Mangel, who ended up studying chemical engineering.
There was no discrimination
She alleged that at the UCR she did not feel discrimination by colleagues or professors, since it was considered that in engineering the matter is very equitable. Explaining that in the courses and subjects she had classmates and teachers who gave lessons, so there was not so much gap.
“At UCR I didn’t really feel that gap. I think that in other engineering it is perhaps more marked. I think that in Civil, Mechanics and Electricity there are only a few women who are studying ”, she mentioned.
After working at UCR, she went to the Netherlands to get a master’s degree in renewable energy at a technological university. “Here, after my master’s degree, I started to do a doctorate at the faculty of mechanical engineering at Delft University of Technology and I’m working on a special project that is for renewable energy storage,” Mangel noted.
In Mangel’s discretion, people, without distinction of gender, should study whatever they want. “Without that social weight that it belongs to men or women. If children want to study something, which is typically for women and that is going to make them happy, I think it is also part of having more equity in engineering and science,” said Mangel.