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Reyes Elizalde: "Science is also a woman's business".

On the occasion of International Women's Day, the scientific director of Ceit-IK4 and professor at Tecnun, invites women to "work hard and fight for their dreams".

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Reyes Elizalde PHOTO: Communication Service
07/03/18 11:29 Communication Service

March 8th is International Women's Day and, to celebrate this event, we reproduce the article recently published in DV by the researcher of Ceit-IK4 and professor of Tecnun, Reyes Elizalde, in which she takes stock of the role of women in the world of science. What have been their difficulties, but also their achievements and the steps that still need to be taken to work on an equal footing with men.

The first person to win two Nobel Prizes in history was a woman, Marie Curie. It is also true that women have not been very fortunate with this award and on many occasions their discoveries have not been recognized. For example, Rosalind Franklin 's work was the key to other researchers, men, winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962 and the Nobel Prize at Chemistry in 1982. She unfortunately died young, at the age of 38, in 1958. But her contributions in the field of biology made it possible to understand the structure of DNA and opened up a whole field of work in biomedicine, the revolution of the 21st century.

What is the role of women in science? The same as that of men: to seek the truth in order to understand the world, life, and thus be able to improve our society. Although we still have a long way to go to make this truth a reality. In the Europe of 28, of the total number of researchers working in universities, research centers and companies, only 33% are women. In Spain we are above the average, with 39% of women out of the total number of researchers. It is particularly striking that the difference is greater in the business sector, with 31% of women researchers in Spain compared to 20% in the EU-28. The future is encouraging since 50% of new PhDs are women, again slightly above the European average (47%). However, the weight of women decreases as one progresses through the research career and this difference is curiously greater in Public Universities, with 21% of women professors, which is also the European average . Another hopeful fact is that in private universities this figure is exceeded average and 43% of women professors are women. However, we fail in the percentage of female rectors. We have room for improvement, but as Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), the first female physician in the United States, said, 'if the current provisions of society do not allow women to be free development , then society must be remodeled'.

What causes the leave representation of women in science and technology? In some disciplines, such as engineering, the traditional association of these professions to men. Also the prejudice that a full professional career is incompatible with an adequate dedication to the family, and that this responsibility should fall on women. Key to combating these prejudices are, first and foremost, activities that encourage scientific and technological vocations among girls and young women. The last thing we should do is to limit ourselves, and this involves Education. A clear example is sample in the movie 'Hidden Figures' (2017). It tells the true story of a group of African-American women mathematicians who managed to work at NASA and contribute to the development of aeronautics and the space race. For these women, the first challenge consisted of getting an education, against the sexist and racial prejudices of the time. Once they had finished their studies, their ceiling was to dedicate themselves to the teaching. Their opportunity arose from the Second World War and the need for qualified staff for the development of military airplanes. They were able to seize the opportunity because of their training and their ability to work: inspiration caught them at work. The Education makes us more masters of our destiny.

In the society of knowledge the research and development is the engine that will make Economics grow and improve society, and to lead this change it is necessary to have well-trained people. And this is our opportunity so that in the future it will not be necessary to celebrate 'the international day of women and girls in science'. And what can we do as a society? On the one hand, support female students in science and technology careers. There are many programs in different universities and research centers for this purpose. At the University of Navarrafor example, there is the Women for Science and Technology initiative, which offers complementary training to develop skills and acquire a global vision of science. On the other hand, there must be policies that favor the reconciliation of family and professional life. I want tools that allow every woman and every man to freely choose how to combine their lives staff and work: flexibility, childcare, school schedules, etc.

I consider myself a privileged person. I have always had the support of my family, I have never been professionally limited in my research center or at the University of Navarra, which by the way has a research Vice President , in the Basque Country there is a clear commitment of the country for the research and development led by a counselor of development Economic and a counselor of Education.

So, women and especially girls, dream in freedom, dream with high goals, fight for your dreams, work hard, enjoy your work and change the world. You can do it by doing your bit.

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