Although Latin America has achieved gender parity among researchers in all areas of knowledge, the presence of women in leadership positions in science and tech is minimal. 

In addition to the disparity between men and women, the survey also points to the marked racial inequality in leadership positions in science and technology. Image: Gorodenkoff – Shutterstock

According to data from a survey carried out by the British Council, and released this Wednesday at the Gender Summit virtual global conference, two other serious problems found are difficulties in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the marked ethnic inequality.

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The meeting, which runs until the 23rd, discusses the importance of women in science.

Despite being the majority among undergraduate and doctoral students in Brazil, women are under-represented at the university teaching level. This limitation grows as leadership positions increase and become more political. 

According to the Comparative Survey on Women and Girls in STEM in Latin America, female representation is no more than 2% in the highest political positions in Science and Technology.

Vera Oliveira, senior manager of Higher Education at the British Council, one of the conference's organizing institutions, says that, throughout their careers, women face a wide range of barriers, in addition to a lack of incentives, inside and outside the academic environment, to achieve higher positions. 

She cites the support network for research mothers as an example and recalls that maternity leave for graduate students is a recent achievement.

“You use the Lattes [curriculum] of a woman and a man to compare academic performance: how much they have published in a certain period. You only compared the years and saw who had more publications, so the man earned more”, says Vera, explaining that, therefore, the period of leave on leave was disregarded. “Women are penalized in academic productivity precisely for taking on this new responsibility”.

Minority women in science and technology leadership may indicate structural machismo

According to Vera, there are also cultural issues to be overcome. “Many times, leadership profiles are closely associated with male characteristics, a profile that does not allow for so many possibilities and that is being rethought. Leadership can be done in many ways.” 

Of the scientific scholarships in STEM, 91.103 are awarded in Brazil, according to research data, of which 58% were awarded to white researchers. 

The study also points out that the participation of black researchers is 26% and that of indigenous people does not reach 1%. With regard to gender, among the scholarship holders, 59% are white, and black women represent 26,8%. 

Also according to the survey, 17% of the female population in Brazil, according to data from Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) 2016, completed higher education. 

Among men, the percentage is 13,5%. The rate of graduated white women is 23,5%. Students enrolled in higher education, according to data from the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira (Inep) 2020, total more than 8,4 million, 57% women and 43% men.

"Women are major contributors to publications in Brazil: 51% of the authors of scientific publications are women, while 40% of the top 10% of the most productive authors are women."

Source: Agency Brazil.

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