Bridging gender gaps: celebrating women in science and engineering

Róisín McGovern
Digital Training Lead
13 Feb 2024

As the world tackles some of society’s greatest challenges, from climate crisis to global health, the collective effort to bridge gender gaps in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) becomes ever more crucial. The global community recently marked the International Day of Women and Girls in Science which celebrates the invaluable contributions of women and girls to the economic development of the world.

It’s a day to reflect on the strides made towards inclusivity and equality in the sciences, and inspire future generations of women to pursue their passions and contribute to change. It’s also an opportunity to recognise the work we still need to do to ensure that within STEM:

  • female researchers have longer, better paid careers
  • women occupy roles in cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence
  • women are given the same research grant opportunities as their male colleagues

We want to spotlight two organisations taking part in Lightful’s BRIDGE programme - building resilience in digital growth and engagement - who are dedicated to achieving these goals and to supporting the aspirations of women and girls in science across Peru.

The programme, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, is supporting 50 organisations to elevate their online presence, reach new audiences, and raise awareness of the gender gaps within STEM. Participants are driving the gender justice movement in their local communities to create a more equitable scientific sector… and they are embracing the power of technology to help them do it!

Bio Natural Solutions is a company focused on product innovation for the agro-food sector, offering solutions to promote a circular economy and sustainability.

EcoSwell designs and implements sustainability projects to help people and nature thrive in unison.

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science we spoke to Nicole Tovar Helfer from Bio Natural Solutions (BNS), and Diego Almendrades from EcoSwell, to hear their thoughts on how digital can help advance full and equal access to STEM opportunities.

How is your organisation working to increase female participation in STEM?

Bio Natural Solutions: At BNS, we have outstanding women in key roles who actively participate in conferences and events to promote gender diversity.

Jesaya Rios, a research leader, is one of our most prominent figures and has participated in numerous relevant events. Ximena Adriazola, co-founder and COO, is also an important reference, participating in various events and initiatives. At BNS, we do not limit opportunities based on gender, but rather we value performance and capacity. We currently have 60% women in our team, which shows that in our company, success is achieved through effort and knowledge, regardless of gender.

EcoSwell: In 2023, 8 women from 4 different marginalised communities received specialised training in hydrogeophysics and the use of geophysical instruments for groundwater monitoring. STEM is of utmost importance here because they have to read numbers from electronic multimeters, gather and process that data in a computer, understand and correlate the numbers with sub-surface resistivity models and interpret results in a scientific way using appropriate low-cost technology. The training has empowered these women to qualify as community groundwater monitors and progress to jobs in that field as municipal officials.

What role do you think digital technology can play in reducing the gender gap in STEM?

Bio Natural Solutions: Digital technology plays a critical role in bridging the gender gap in STEM by improving the reach and dissemination of knowledge and opportunities. Expanding access to information and development through technology enables all people, regardless of gender, to explore diverse areas of knowledge.

Today, constant technological innovation and its diffusion has a positive impact by reaching a wider audience. This not only captures the attention of young women, but also those at younger ages, in educational environments such as schools and universities. Technology helps women make informed decisions about STEM careers at an early stage.

Growing awareness of opportunities in technology, driven by active outreach, plays a key role in this process. By familiarising more people with roles and positions that were previously less well-known, greater gender diversity in these areas is encouraged.

What does gender equality mean to your organisation?

Bio Natural Solutions: Ultimately, for us, gender equality means recognising and valuing individual skills over and above any gender-based limitations, thus contributing to a diverse and equitable work environment in STEM.

EcoSwell: ​​It means there is a diverse STEM landscape where gender is not a determining factor for any person's ability to perform and be successful within that scientific number-oriented field.

How did you celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science?

Bio Natural Solutions: Instead of a traditional celebration, we chose to commemorate this day by highlighting our outstanding female professionals. We will showcase the team, allowing the company as a whole to get to know the women who are making significant contributions in various areas.

This commemoration gives us the opportunity to highlight the growth of our team and highlight these outstanding figures who play a crucial role in bridging the gender gap in the scientific field. It is important to note that, in our company, two out of three of our managers are led by women, which demonstrates our commitment to gender equity and the promotion of female participation in leadership roles.

Have your new BRIDGE learnings encouraged you to leverage the power of digital?

Bio Natural Solutions: The knowledge gained through the BRIDGE programme has provided valuable insight into the effective use of digital technology. I have had the opportunity to engage in conversations and get to know other participants. The diversity of experiences and perspectives shared in these sessions provides a broader understanding of how different professionals handle gender issues in their respective work settings.

EcoSwell: We have learned a lot from BRIDGE that can help us leverage the power of digital to raise gender issues within STEM. For example, being able to define personas, planning and executing digital campaigns, implementing a digital strategy, reviewing our digital marketing material and website, researchings and securing social media influencers… With these tools we are now better positioned to reach wider audiences on important matters such as raising awareness of gender issues within STEM.

At Lightful, we are proud to support organisations like Bio Natural Solutions and EcoSwell who are working towards the three pillars of Sustainable Development: economic prosperity, social justice, and environmental integrity.

Through digital learning and engagement, BRIDGE participants like these are creating a more equitable scientific community, ensuring that every aspiring woman and girl can explore, innovate, and contribute to shaping our future. If you want to find out more about our work, drop us a line at hello@lightful.com - we'd love to hear from you!

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