"STEM-related fields have endless options to choose from and many career opportunities"
11 February marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day that seeks to demand full and equal access and participation in science for women and girls, gender equality and their empowerment.
According to the latest UNESCO Science Report, currently only one in three researchers is a woman. What's more, in higher education, women account for just over 35% of graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-related fields, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, recently stated: "On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let us reiterate this fundamental message: women need science and science needs women. Only by tapping into all sources of knowledge, all sources of talent, can we unlock the full potential of science and rise to the challenges of our time."
That is why society in general, and companies in particular, must push to reduce this gender gap. At ALCAD we do our bit with our own Equality Plan, a set of measures adopted after carrying out a diagnosis of the situation aimed at achieving equal treatment and opportunities between women and men and eliminating discrimination based on sex.
We are fortunate to have women with different STEM degrees working in very diverse departments, from R&D to IT, Development, Logistics or Purchasing. On this occasion, we would like to join this day by talking with two of our female engineers: Adela Peleato, the most veteran in the company with 32 years of experience, and Andrea Amenabar, the youngest, with just over 1 year.
Why did you decide to study engineering?
Adela: I studied at the Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña in Barcelona. At school I was already very into science, I especially liked physics. I hesitated about studying Physics, but at that time most of the people I knew who had studied science ended up working as teachers, and that didn't appeal to me at all. My family also helped me (especially my father, who saw me as capable and encouraged me) and my group of friends (three of us studied different engineering degrees).
Andrea: The truth is that I was never sure what I wanted to study, but when the time came to choose, it was clear. I've always liked Science more than Literature and that's why I chose the Science and Technology Baccalaureate. I was motivated to see the application of science, such as engineering, and also the whole issue of organisation. So, without much hesitation I opted for Industrial Organisation Engineering.
Adela, have you noticed any change in the relationship between women and science since you were a student?
I think society has changed and no one is surprised when a girl decides to study engineering. When I started studying, many people considered engineering to be a career for men. In my first class there were two girls in a class of about 50 or 60 students, I think that now the percentage has grown quite a lot, although it could grow even more.
What do you like most about your work?
Adela: Being in R&D, the process of thinking about how to make a new product is very motivating, and it is also very satisfying when you get the first functional prototypes.
Andrea: Being in contact with different people, both internally and externally, with different profiles, different areas (production, logistics...). Also, getting to know the different phases of the supply chain: purchasing process, design, manufacture, sale... In short, to see the result of the work carried out.
According to UNESCO, the female presence in STEM degree courses is barely 35%. Why do you think women prefer other specialisations and why is there still a gender gap at university?
Adela: I wouldn't know how to answer that. I don't know if these are worldwide data. Here I think that more and more women are entering university and there are careers, such as medicine, in which women are in a large majority.
Andrea: It is not easy to answer this, I think it is the sum of several factors: stereotypes imposed by society, education, lack of female role models, inequality of opportunities... Furthermore, until now, the professional opportunities in these STEM careers were led by men. It is true that this is starting to change little by little, but there is still a long way to go before there are more and more women in science. To this end, it is essential to continue working on gender equality and opportunities and to visualise the role of women in science.
Have you noticed any discrimination in your workplace because you are a woman? And in ALCAD?
Adela: No discrimination on a personal level. Perhaps it has helped that my profile is very technical and I have not been interested in the more sought-after management positions. Legislation has also been advancing and helping in this sense. For example, paternity leave or reduced working hours for parents to look after their children was unthinkable when I started working. In any case, work is not an isolated place, and here too, sexist comments have been heard.
Andrea: I have not been in the world of work for very long and so far I have not felt any discrimination on a personal level. However, I have noticed differences. As we all know, it is more common to see men in positions of greater responsibility or management. I believe that companies have a lot to contribute to this change and that they must get involved. It is essential that equality is one of the strategic objectives of the company.
Andrea, how would you encourage other girls to study a STEM career?
I think they are careers with infinite options to choose from. There is more and more variety and specialisation in different areas. Moreover, they are careers with many professional opportunities, so if you are not sure which path to choose, it is positive, because as you progress you have the possibility to focus, change, try and learn. I would love to see more and more women, also in ALCAD, in science.