UP Women in Science and Research

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UP Women in Science and Research

Did you know that UNESCO data indicates that only 30% of researchers worldwide are women? This figure is even lower in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, where there is still a considerable gender gap.

 

The Universidad Panamericana (UP) currently has 43 female researchers across its three campuses in Mexico, Guadalajara and Aguascalientes. To learn about some of them and the challenges they have faced in their careers, we interviewed Dr. María de Lourdes Martínez Villaseñor, Dr. Cecilia Coronado Angulo, Dr. Margarita Hurtado Hernández and Dr. Nalu Navarro Álvarez, who spoke to us about how women’s role in science and research could be strengthened.

 

A matter of stereotypes

 

María de Lourdes Martínez Villaseñor holds a PhD in computer science, and currently works as a research professor and as head of the computing area at the UP School of Engineering. The bulk of her research is dedicated to artificial intelligence and, in particular, to user modeling and recognition of human activities.

 

 

“In some areas, stereotypes and paradigms that connote certain discrimination against women is visible. It is important that women, and especially girls, know that they can do whatever they want, that they are just as capable (as men) and can develop and engage in science projects that will benefit the country”, she indicates.

 

María de Lourdes attests to the fact that often, when women limit themselves in the field of research, it is because they have to divide their time between raising children and household activities.

 

                         

 

Equal treatment, not special treatment

 

Cecilia Coronado Angulo studied her undergraduate degree at the UP and has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Navarra. She has participated in two research projects, namely “Migration, territory and identities” and “Identity and plurality of the university: A critical perspective”, for which she is principal investigator.

 

Cecilia maintains that research carried out by a man or a woman is equally valuable and that, in reality, we should work towards treating both exactly the same.

 

 

“I think it is important to conduct research at a high academic level. I do not think that research carried out by women is more relevant than that carried out by men, or vice versa. It is important that contributions from female academics be subject to the same scientific demands as those from men and that they are equally recognized and remunerated,” she points out.

 

She argues that the best way to bring more women into research is to explain what academia is and invite them to take part in research projects. "I believe that we must generate, or continue to generate, an academic culture where students are part of professors’ work so that they know what it (research) is about and can then decide whether or not they want to work in it".

 

"Academia is the ideal place for people devoted to studying and with academic curiosity to continue thinking about a particular topic through different forums and media," she says.

 

                      

 

Genderless research

 

Margarita Hurtado Hernández earned a PhD in Industrial Engineering. Her research centers on improving organizational performance through the systemic approach, applying qualitative and quantitative analytical methodologies to model and evaluate organizations’ operating policies as complex systems.

 

Her desire to solve social problems and improve people's quality of life led her to become an engineer and researcher. She believes that research is a way to influence reality and contribute to positive change.

 

In addition, she maintains that there should be no distinction between men and women: "I believe that research has no gender and the more people participate, the more progress can be made towards solving society’s problems".

 

 

A different perspective

 

Nalu Navarro Álvarez is a research doctor within the Molecular Biology Laboratory at the UP School of Medicine. Currently, her laboratory focuses on the study of acute and chronic liver diseases. Her lines of research combine basic and translational science.

 

Mexico’s enormous need to provide more treatment options to patients with liver conditions is among the reasons that led her to become a researcher. However, in the process of becoming a doctor, she spent time in Japan, where she encountered certain obstacles based on being a woman, so she is aware that there is still a long way to go.

 

 

"Although much progress has been made to reduce the gender gap in recent years, it still has been quite limited... we have a long way to go to free ourselves from prejudices and recognize the true potential of girls and women in science", she says.

 

The doctor also notes that uncommon proposals or ideas are always needed to address scientific, technological and mathematical problems and, in that sense, she maintains that, “Women enrich this process; they provide a different perspective. In a world like the scientific one, which is almost always dominated by men, women’s different vision and point of view can make a difference”.

 

 

Research carried out at the UP focuses on the person and aims to advance towards knowledge of the truth in a collaborative effort, seeking to find solutions to contemporary social problems.