One more year, we celebrate #InternationalWomensDay: a day that not only commemorates and pays tribute to all those women who throughout history have contributed to the figure of women today being equal to that of men, but also serves as an impetus to continue fighting to reduce the differences in those areas or sectors in which there are still unequal conditions.
Therefore, this year’s slogan is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. Our lives today depend on strong digital integration: from attending a course, calling your loved ones, making a bank transaction or booking a doctor’s appointment. Everything currently goes through a technological process. However, 37% of the world’s women do not have access to it.
Oligofastx: 67% of the project’s members are women
Fortunately, the situation in the digital environment is not comparable to what we find in the biomedical and R&D sector. For example, in Oligofastx, a consortium that brings together seven leading Spanish companies in oligonucleotide research and development, 67% of the project team members are women.
We are very proud of this fact, because this was not always the case. Just as a reference, mention the article we have already dedicated to the figure of Rosalind Franklin and how her role in science marked a before and after and whose work, however, was not recognized until much later.
In the words of Rebeca Alonso scientific director and co-founder of Nanovex, “I believe that we are living in times of change and evolution and that we are witnessing an increase in the presence of women in different areas of science such as technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Although there is still a gender imbalance in academic careers in the STEM field that we must try to alleviate. But even though they are a minority, I believe that women are increasingly taking on leadership roles, enabling social and political changes that, in addition to breaking stereotypes, serve as a model demonstrating that women engineers and scientists can succeed in these areas regardless of their gender. More specifically, nanotechnology affects or is related to many aspects of our lives such as medicine, cosmetics, electronics or energy among others.”
Bringing women and girls into digital technology and education allows for more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs, promote gender equality and encourage activism. Their lack of inclusion, on the contrary, has an enormous cost.
Becoming a scientist requires ” of dedication and study, whether it is a university degree or professional training, related to the field of science
you are most passionate about. The path to fully dedicate oneself to scientific research is highly rewarding and enriching, but also, as in any other field, it involves developing the mental fortitude to overcome the associated difficulties”, tells us Marina OjedaR&D researcher at 53Biologics.
Asked about the prevalence of gender in the scientific field, Marina adds: “Currently in the scientific field I think there is no difference between men and women. In fact and, increasingly, it is common to see a majority of women in laboratories, health centers, research, etc.”
For Lucía Díaz, Head of drug discovery de Nostrum Biodiscovery, “thanks to Science I have been able to achieve great critical capacity, personal development and perseverance to build the basis of my self-esteem, also settling frustrations and overcoming them as a fundamental part of the process. Surrounding yourself with people who value you, appreciate your ideas and provide you with constructive criticism can imply a luck factor, but also something you can choose and change if you don’t feel that way.”
However, in her opinion, some inequalities are still evident: “From some institutions, special programs for the selection of female scientists are created in order to achieve gender equality. The question is whether this should be the case or, on the contrary, programs and measures should be created beforehand to equalize the rights of women who see their careers diminished by the hiatus caused by motherhood or caring for family members, for example. In science, these periods are highly penalized because the triumph is based, for example, on the number and quality of scientific publications. Competing with men within these scales is highly complicated”, concludes Lucía.
Following basic instincts and pursuing passions: advice for future women scientists
For Tamara Martinez, R&D manager at Sylentis and coordinator of Oligofastx, her professional career is nothing more than a natural evolution of her interests and innate curiosity: “I have always been a very observant person, I was very observant of details and I loved nature. I liked to see what was going on and tried to understand every detail. I spent a lot of time in Galicia, in my grandparents’ village, and in the countryside I collected plants, water from the chickens… I asked my parents for a microscope because I wanted to understand more what was going on around me. What really capped it all off was seeing the drawings of ‘Once upon a time there was life’, and that really captivated me, trying to understand what was going on inside the body and the cells: I became passionate about biology. When I chose the career, it was super clear to me.”
As a recommendation, Tamara shares her life experience: “I would tell women who want to go into science to cultivate their curiosity very much in a cross-disciplinary way, trying to delve into different disciplines, not just biology. Because the world is a set of interconnected experiences. They should also try things constantly, explore new things, because that is where new answers emerge. Do not be afraid to make mistakes and take the risk, because mistakes teach better lessons than successes, because they allow you to go deeper. Pursue your passion, be constant, have a transversal vision of life and problems and enjoy the journey”.says Tamara.
For Beatriz Llamusí, CEO and co-founder of ARTHEx Biotech, safety is important: “It is important that they believe in themselves. I think women have a very developed sense of responsibility that makes us have the impostor syndrome, stopping us in some things, because we always want to be sure. And I would recommend them to take risks by believing in the feeling they have about things, and not to let themselves be overwhelmed by people with more experience, testosterone or a better position in the hierarchy. They should fight for what they want and not let themselves be stepped on, because this is a world in general in which they are going to find many obstacles for many reasons, not just because they are women”.
In fact, for Ana García Sacristán, Project Manager and Head of Equality Policy at Aptus Biotech, “In more than 20 years working in the biotechnology sector, I have not felt any gender discrimination, neither from my colleagues nor from my supervisors, both my thesis director and the principal investigator of my first postdoctoral project being women.
However, in the top positions in research institutes and organizations I have noticed a greater presence of men than women, but over the last few years this gender bias has been balancing out. As an example, at APTUS Biotech, the most senior position is held by a woman and the number of women working in the company exceeds the number of men.” adds Ana.
For Nuria Rubio, R&D researcher at 53Biologics, “thanks to the struggle of women scientists who have preceded us, I can say that both women and men share the path to follow to get to work in science. It is not an easy path, as it involves hours and hours of constant effort and dedication. In most cases we must go through a university degree, master’s degree and even a doctoral thesis. But, even so, it is still worthwhile to dedicate oneself to it and today it makes me proud to be a scientist and a woman. In my particular case, I have not been aware of the existence of salary differences between men and women.
women. However, I do believe that there are differences in opportunities in management positions, for those women who need to reconcile their work and family life.”
Statement corroborated by María Eugenia Zarabozo, co-founder and CFO of Aptatargets: “My experience, like everyone’s, was hard at the beginning and has had delicate moments, but I believe that in the field of Science and Innovation, the position of women is consolidating. Today, the role of women in organizational and management profiles is assured, but we have to keep fighting to make it natural for women’s participation in corporate governance.”
From Oligofastx we continue to work and always support the integration of all groups in the research and development of biochemical solutions to improve the quality of life of patients with rare diseases. Thanks to all the members of the team, and thanks to all the women who have fought to be able to have such valuable knowledge available to society today.