August 22, 2019
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Science & Technology

Ecuadorian women scientists slam gender gap in their profession

By Christian A. Sanchez

Tena, Ecuador, Jul 16 (efe-epa).- Three Ecuadorian women scientists are demanding greater recognition for women in science and regret the fact they are not listened to as men are, which, they believe, creates a world not achieving all it could, either scientifically or socially.

They love their work and have made notable discoveries, yet Yanet Villasana, Maria Soledad Solorzano and Sara Alvarez raise their voices every day asking for science to provide greater opportunities for women.

The three form part of the research team of Ecuador's Ikiam Amazon Regional University, which rather unusually has a staff that is 47 percent women.

"With the career I've had, which isn't very long, I have come to realize that acknowledgment of the work women do in science simply doesn't exist," Villasana, who left her native Venezuela to experiment with obtaining of energy from residual agricultural biomass, told EFE.

This 32-year-old chemistry scientist regretted that existing stereotypes keep science from progressing more.

She gave as an example the widespread conviction that a beautiful woman is "less intelligent," and said that such an attitude "has damaged all of society" since "scientific progress in the world would be much greater if men and women worked together."

The fact is that in a conservative society like Ecuador's, a woman's abilities are often not taken seriously, though more and more they are taking over important positions from men, including in science.

An example of this new drive forward was the creation in 2016 of the Ecuadorian Network of Women Scientists (REMCI) for the purpose of "promoting the scientific work of women scientists and increasing their participation and recognition in academia and the world."

REMCI coordinator Claudia Segovia was quoted in the Ecuadorian daily El Tiempo as saying that "fewer scientific articles by women get published, they get less funding for research and fewer executive positions, fewer promotions and sometimes lower pay."

To these efforts are also added those of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) in Ecuador, which promotes 13 projects at Ikiam University, founded in late 2013 to strengthen science and empower women.

Among them are studies of ancestral traditions of Amazon communities, the generation of resources from residual agricultural biomass and the conservation of mammalian species.

Doctor of Archaeology Solorzano has made a name for herself for taking part as head of research in some of the big archaeological digs of recent years.

Though it was she who discovered another stretch of the "Millennial Pashimbi" archaeological site, she recalled in a recent interview on television that the media gave all their attention to her male partner.

The Spaniard Sara Alvarez, doctor of Animal Behavior, agreed. Women in science, she said, are not listened to "the way a man is."

Villasana said "the vision of women in science" is necessary because they have a different view of the world that could improve the impact of science "on society, the environment and development." EFE-EPA ca/cd

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