Today we celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science. To help commemorate this awareness day, this perspectives article showcases 6 women scientists from different counties that talk about their own experiences and share their role models to empower the younger generation of women to pursue a career in science. We would like to thank Valerie De Anda who helped us to compile these interviews.
Yocelyn T. Gutiérrez-Guerrero – México
I am studying the evolution of dietary diversification and specialization in bats and birds using comparative and functional genomics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The most wonderful part of being a woman in science is believing what I do matters for science and society. Science is my passion, so I’m pretty glad and excited when I can share this passion and energy with others, especially non-scientists.
Fortunately, my family, mentor and colleagues have always been very supportive. I’m glad to say that gender has not been an obstacle. Although women and girls have more visibility in science today, we need to break the gender barriers. We should build networks to support each other in academia and industry. We have to finish with impostor syndrome and create more opportunities for women and girls in science.
Najla Ksouri – Tunisia
I am currently doing my PhD on the application of bioinformatics in plant breeding (using peach as a study case). Actually, bioinformatics has become an important part of many areas of biology and plays an important role in today’s plant science. Yet many vital processes in plants are still to be characterized. To address this knowledge gap and to answer interesting questions, we are combining bioinformatics tools and genomics.
The amazing thing about being a woman scientist is the satisfying feeling that I am contributing to the scientific community. I enjoy exploring things a lot and investigating how mechanisms work, then feel so excited at the results. Additionally, science is social and being a scientist allows me to make invaluable connections.
I remember when I was doing my degree in Agronomic Science Engineering, I was disappointed to see a clear imbalance in employment opportunities between men and women. Now, during my PhD, gender differences and competition with my male colleagues is not an issue. However, I am starting to get some comments from people that it’s time to think about having a family and that my career as a scientist is hampering me from doing that.
Miriam Fernández Calleja – Spain
I am pursuing a PhD to develop hybrid barley varieties adapted to the conditions of the Iberian region. What attracts me most to science is creating new knowledge and being able to share it. I would love to become a reference for girls who like the field and science.
I myself have not yet experienced any gender bias up to this point in my career. We have so many talented, young women doing great work at the PhD level. However, few women become leaders of a research group. One of the main reasons for promising women to leave an academic career are decisions they are forced to make in private life. We need institutional policies that support these brilliant young women not to have to choose between science and private life.
Estíbaliz Margarita Ramírez Vázquez – Mexico
I am a biomedical physicist at the Institute of Materials Research at UNAM, in which I am making a prototype of a gas sensor that helps to control the environment in laboratories, industrial processes and pollution.
The woman scientist who inspires me is Beatriz Barba Ahuatzin because during her life as a researcher she managed to break many standards that were imposed in a society where only men could have a professional career and work in the world of archeology.
Girls and women are increasingly entering the world of science; it is no longer an impossible dream to want to become a great researcher in some field of science. In addition, society is increasingly encouraging both genders to develop and contribute ideas equally, allowing each individual to develop their curiosity, creativity and imagination in the direction that most appeals to them. I believe that women can have a great future because we have shown that by working hard and with determination we can achieve the same projects with very satisfactory results. If society would work together and not in an individualistic way, the development of science would go much further in less time.”
Kathryn Appler – USA
I am analyzing deep sea microorganisms to better understand global cycles and the origin of eukaryotes.
I love that science provides opportunities to shed light on new information and to teach the next generation of scientists. My role models have been my mentors from UC Santa Cruz and the Alaska SeaLife Center. In both places, I worked with teams of incredible women dedicated to cutting-edge science. I feel inspired by both the women before me, whose determination enables me to conduct research today, as well as the next generation, whose voice will alter the face of science. However, STEM will only benefit from further increasing the diversity of voices it highlights.”
Ruth Rincon Heredia – Mexico
I am in charge of the microscopy core facility at the Physiology Institute IFC-UNAM. I love to help people resolve their microscopy problems, for example, the understanding of which is the best microscopy approach to solve a scientific question. I like to see myself as a scientific consultant understanding the little-big world inside the cells.
Women supply not just great ideas to every project, but also the heart and passion for knowledge. I always had excellent coworkers and the support of my family for being a woman in science.”