Members of our society will describe us their new society about Women in STEM.
What is Women in STEM?
Women in STEM is a group formed by students of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). The idea was born in September 2022, when we realized that there was a lack of awareness about the problem of gender equality in STEM (“Science”, “Technology”, “Engineering” and “Mathematics”). The VU is one of the most progressive universities in the Netherlands on diversity issues. However, as in the rest of the country, there is a huge lack of awareness of the gender gap in the professional field. Over the years, female representation in STEM careers has grown tremendously. Especially in the sciences, there has been a notable increase in female graduates in its various branches. Although this is visible to the naked eye, there is currently no concrete data that would allow a comparison of the percentages. Despite this, the VU has barely 27% of women in faculty or principal investigator positions. This situation is repeated in many organizations and companies in the country. These data suggest the perpetuation of the famous “glass ceiling” in this area. Furthermore, in technology, engineering and mathematics careers, female representation is worryingly low from the initial levels of education. And this situation is not expected to improve in the near future.
At Women in STEM we have identified the problem and are working to be part of the change. We firmly believe that the first barrier to overcome in this area is public awareness. Thus, our main objective is to raise awareness of the important role that women have played in the history of science throughout history, and continue to play today. For this, we have organized a corps composed of undergraduate, masters, PhD students as well as professors and workers in the different STEM areas. All these people work together creating physical and digital content, and organizing events, to raise awareness of the essential role of women in STEM as well as the current state of affairs.
Activities we are organising
In the previous blog post, about queer perspectives in science, we also talked about the discrimination that women in science and other STEM areas continue to suffer (1). For this reason, we organize different activities and events with the main objective of promoting women in STEM with whom girls and young women can identify and be inspired by their success. Being based at VU, we have the opportunity to connect students with female professors, researchers and other professionals, to foster the creation of a network of women who support each other.
Since the creation of the group in September 2022 until now (December 2022), we have organized two events open to the public. The first, in collaboration with the VU student association “Black and African Diaspora”, to raise awareness of women with African and Black roots in STEM. During this event entitled “Nights of Drinks and Dialogues: the Influence of Cultural Diversity in STEM Careers”, we had the pleasure of having Dr. Candace Moore participate. Dr. Moore is a software engineer currently researching racial bias in medical instrumentation and artificial intelligence. We had very interesting discussions with her and the other participants!
In addition, just a few days ago we organized a panel discussion entitled “Women in Neuroscience panel: Experiences as a Woman in STEM”. For the discussion, we invited four neuroscientists at different points in their careers, who told us about their backgrounds and experiences in a discussion moderated by us. We also talked about work-life balance. In particular, the participation of Irune Guerra San Juan, also a Spanish neuroscientist who is now finishing her doctoral thesis in a collaboration between the Netherlands and the United States. We also had the participation of Vivi Heine, a renowned senior researcher with extensive international experience, Marieke Meijer, a postdoc researcher at the VU and the CNCR center, and Aline Mak, a doctoral candidate also from these two centers. The event was a great success, according to the positive feedback from the more than 40 people in the audience.
In the discussion among these four professionals, they all agreed that groups like ours are very necessary. One of the pieces of advice addressed to young women scientists that most struck us was to take advantage of every opportunity without doubting oneself, because we are perfectly capable and deserving of it. The final message we were left with was that creating a support network of women scientists who support each other, believe in themselves and give each other opportunities is key.
And that’s not all! We are already organizing the agenda of events for 2023. We have not yet confirmed the dates, so we encourage you to follow us on our social networks, to be updated on the next activities. A couple of hints to get you warmed up… discussion by a CERN scientist, a film festival with a women in STEM theme for the day of women and girls in science, symposiums, debates and panels with professionals from different STEM areas… We have something for everyone!
If all this sounds good to you, we’re looking for you! Join the team and help us in our work for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. You can register here https://forms.gle/mdSzGKUsPj92QbCD7 or send us a message with your questions. And of course, come to our activities and get inspired by the best professionals, expand your professional network and enjoy the snacks that usually accompany these events.
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 The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (AAUW) https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/
Master student in Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience and Public Health International
She holds a degree in Philology and a PhD in Translation from the University of the Basque Country. She is currently in a period of professional transition oriented towards communication.
Cristina Boers Escuder
Biochemist (UAM). Neuroscience MSc Student at VU Amsterdam
I am Cristina, half Spanish, half Dutch. I have lived in Madrid almost all my life, and I studied Biochemistry at the Autonomous University of Madrid. There I became fascinated by neuroscience, so I decided to come to Amsterdam to do the Master in Neuroscience at the VU and to explore the other part of me. It has been an amazing experience as I have met super interesting people and learned a lot. I am also the director of the activities and events department of Women in STEM. Next year, I would like to stay here and do a PhD studying astrocyte-neuron communication, my passion within neuroscience.