FlyATM4E is not a regular ATM research project. And that is not because of the research topic, but due to the human factor: half of the research team are women. Today in the International Day of Women and Girls in Science we interviewed Federica Castino, a PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology and member of the FlyATM4E project.
Is science not interesting for women?
During the school years girls show a similar interest in science as boys do. However, when they reach university levels, the number of women enrolled in scientific careers decreases considerably. Why does this happen? For Federica Castino, one of the obstacles that students experience is a higher exigence: “when you are part of a minority group, you need to perform better than other colleagues, before obtaining the same level of respect. This may be frustrating, and it encourages girls to enrol in fields which are not as affected by this gender bias”.
According to eldiario.es, in the UK, less than 20% of young women start science careers. From this decision derives the subsequent percentage of representation that women achieve in scientific institutions. For example, in CSIC, the Spanish state agency for scientific research and technological development, only 35% of the scientific research personnel are women.
“A more diverse and safe work environment would facilitate women to go into Science”, maintains Federica, who personally feels fortunate about having met many women in positions of leadership in the aviation sector, “because of their presence, I believe that more and more of the obstacles that women have to overcome in the scientific field are finally being identified and addressed”.
One of them is Sigrun Matthes, FlyATM4E Project Leader and DLR Project Coordinator. For Sigrun, DLR’s internal leadership programme has played an important role because this research centre “is acting systematically as equal opportunity employer”, she said in an interview for SESAR Joint Undertaking.
How can we start building a more equal work environment?
Federica points at the importance of communication: “I believe it is crucial that all scientists, including men, participate in the discussions about gender equality”, because according to her experience, she found that mainly women are interested in talking about equality in science. “However, what needs to change urgently is the behaviour of the people which are leading the community at the moment, to stop discouraging women to pursue scientific careers”.