Education and social awareness activities to promote the participation of women and girls in Science

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Some 40 women astronomers, engineers and technologists from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), from IACTEC and from other collaborating institutions are taking part in around ten initiatives to raise awareness of the important contribution of women in Science and to stimulate the interest of girls in scientific and technological careers. The activities are part of the celebrations of 11F, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and they will extend from February till June.

Even though the percentage of women in scientific and technical careers has grown in recent years, they continue to be a relatively small minority, and the gender gap increases as they move forward in the research career. Another worrying point, which affects the field of Astronomy and Astrophysics in particular, is that the percentage of women university students in Physics, Mathematics and Engineering has declined progressively in the last 20 years.

At the end of 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed February 11th as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, with the aim of promoting full and equal access and participation in Science, Technology and Innovation for women and girls of all ages. Since 2017, the IAC has joined the celebrations of this event with educational and public awareness activities that seek to create female role models in Science and Technology, as well as to inspire new generations, especially girls, to follow in their footsteps.

In 2023 the IAC has maintained its participation in many of the projects and activities developed in previous years which had given good results, as well as to include new actions, essentially aimed at publicizing the work of women engineers in technological projects in Astrophysics and its applications, because the field of engineering is one of those with the least representation of women.

Actions aimed at the new generations

The project Talk to Them: Women in Astronomy, which celebrated its fifth edition in 2023, seeks to change gender stereotypes in Science and Technology, and promote the interest of female students in these areas. It consists of videoconferences with Spanish schools by 30 women astrophysicists and engineers from the IAC, the Canary Islands Observatories and other collaborating institutions, in which they explain their work, talk about their field of research and answer students' questions about scientific and technological careers, about the Universe and the methods used to learn more about it. This project, organised and coordinated by the IAC's Scientific Communication and Outreach Unit, is open to all levels of pre-university education, from infants to "Baccalaureate", and runs from February to June.

In the previous four editions of Talk to Them : Women in Astronomy, a total of 34  workers at the IAC and from 10 related institutions have given 172 videoconferences, reaching 7,000 students at infant, primary, secondary and professional training levels in the whole of Spain. The surveys answered by the participating students and teachers show very positive evaluations of the activities and a high degree of achievement of the objectives pursued.

A large number of women astrophysicists and engineers from the IAC are also participating in a range of activities organized by other institutions, such as the project Mujeres Científicas Canarias, promoted by the Department of Education, Universities, Culture, and Sports of the Canary Government. This is a travelling exhibition about women scientists and technologists who work in research centres and universities in the Canaries, plus talks or workshops given by one of these professionals at each participating school centre.

In addition, talks and workshops are being given in a large number of educational centres in the Canaries, organized within the days around February 11th, or in the context of varied projects such as the Educational Project with Robotic Telescopes (PETeR). 

Activities for the General Public

Anyone who goes to the Roque de los Muchachos Visitor Centre in La Palma will be able to discover the most outstanding contributions of current and historical women researchers to different branches of Astrophysics, via the AstrónomAs exhibition. This has a dual format, physical and digital, and includes information on more than 300 women astronomers who work or have worked in one or more of the fourteen disciplines into which the contents are are structured. One of the characteristics of this project is that it shows diversity, due to the numerous geographical origins, ethnic groups, and professional categories of the women who are featured

Another activity, open to everyone, is Chatea con una Astrónoma, organised by the Women and Astronomy Commission of the SEA (Spanish Astronomical Society), an event that will take place on March 7th, throughout the day, and in which several astrophysicists from the IAC will participate.

Professional role models in Engineering

One of the novelties this year has been the production of a video-report about the women engineers who work on the various IACTEC technology projects, made by students of the Journalism Degree at the University of La Laguna, and coordinated by the IACTEC-Space project communicator.

The report “Con todas las letras de la ciencia” includes interviews with seven women engineers in Optics, Informatics and Systems, plus one Administrative specialist, who work on large telescopic infrastructure projects, such as the European Solar Telescope, the New Robotic Telescope and the Cherenkov Telescope Array, and also on applications of Astrophysics to other areas, such as the development of small satellites and cameras for Earth observation or medical technology programmes.

More information:

IAC and IACTEC personnel who are participating in the above mentioned activities: Adriana de Lorenzo-Cáceres Rodríguez, Alba Eva Peláez, Alejandra Martín Gálvez, Alice Borghese, Ángela Hernández Delgado, Anna Ferre Mateu, Antonia Varela, Arianna di Cintio, Beatriz Varona, Begoña García, Casiana Muñoz Tuñon, Claudia Ruiz, Cristina Castro, Cristina Ramos Almeida, Elena Arjona Gálvez, Emma Esparza Borges, Giovanna Speranza, Hissa Maria Lucio Medeiros, Icíar Montilla, Iveth Adaena Gaspar Gorostieta, Josefa Becerra González, Laura Scholz, Marta Belio, Marta Escriche, Mary Barreto, Mireia Montes Quiles, Mireia Nievas Rosillo, Nayra Rodríguez Eugenio, Natalia Arteaga Marrero, Patricia Chinchilla Gallego, Paula Sola La Serna, Robabeh Salehiozoumchelouei, Rosa Clavero Jiménez y Xana Delpueyo.

Other collaborators: Alba Fernández-Barral (CTAO), Ana Esteban Gutiérrez, Beatriz Mingo (The Open University), Cecilia Fariña (ING), Christopher Brook (ULL), Emma Fernández Alvar (ULL), Evanthia Hatziminaoglou (ESO), Francesca Pinna (MPIA), Gloria Andreuzzi (Telescopio Nazionale Galileo), Judith Santos Torres (ING) y Nataly Ospina (UAM).

List of activities:

Related projects
Poster of the activity "Habla con ellas: Mujeres en Astronomía"
Talk to Them: Women in Astronomy
What is it? It is an IAC initiative that aims to make visible the work of women in Astronomy-Astrophysics, while offering girls inspiring models to promote their scientific and technological vocations. It consists of videoconferences with educational centres by women astrophysicists and engineers who work at the IAC and at other institutions
Rodríguez Eugenio
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