For Women in Science celebrates 15 years in Chile and recognizes CATA women scientists

In an emotional ceremony, the initiative promoted by L'Oréal and UNESCO paid tribute to women scientists who have been awarded throughout the history of the prize at the national level, including outstanding researchers in the area of astronomy and physics who are part of the center.

The objective of “For Women in Science” is to make the role of women in science visible and inspire future generations of women scientists. This initiative, established in 1998 at a global level, aims to internationally recognize the work of women in scientific fields. Since its creation, more than 100 women scientists have been awarded in 116 countries.

The recognition, promoted by L’Oréal and UNESCO, has been installed in our country since 2007, and to date a total of 33 women scientists have been recognized nationally, five of whom have also received international awards as representatives of Latin America. All were honored at a ceremony held last week at ECLAC, including three women scientists from the Center for Astrophysics and Related Technologies, CATA, which is equivalent to just over 20%.

“It was very gratifying to see women from different areas of science, many of them very young, who arrived with their babies in their arms, and I loved that. It is clear that there is no contradiction between being a woman, a mother and a scientist of excellence. It is an invitation for girls and young women who are interested in science, but who also want to have a family life, this shows us that it is possible”, says María Teresa Ruiz, National Prize of Natural and Exact Sciences and academic of the Department of Astronomy of the University of Chile and Director of CATA..

This year, the award went to Daniela Grandón, physics graduate with a mention in astronomy from the Universidad de Valparaíso and PhD student in physics at the Universidad de Chile, and Marcela Márquez, biologist with a mention in environment from the Universidad de Chile, PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida (USA) and Postdoctoral researcher at the Río Cruces Wetlands Center of the Universidad Austral de Chile.

“I feel honored and very happy, I have really enjoyed listening to the stories of the awardees in past years, I identify with them and I admire them all,” said Daniela Grandón after receiving the award, who highlighted the excellent level of women working in astronomy who have been awarded during these years by the initiative. “Even in strongly masculinized careers, there is a safe environment for us to develop. Tell the female students that, although there may be moments of frustration, keep going because they will achieve their goals,” she added.

Inspiring role models

Yasna Órdenes, PhD in Astrophysics from the Catholic University and postdoctoral student member of CATA, pointed out that the importance of these events is to help disseminate and popularize science, but above all “to be role models, who can inspire girls and young women to pursue a scientific career and not give up.  Despite the fact that there are moments when you may feel that your motivation is waning, you have to overcome adversity and keep going. In my case, I come from the region of Coquimbo, I studied in high-school and managed to get to university without having great resources, but I managed to advance with scholarships both in Chile and abroad,” says the astronomer, who is dedicated to studying the evolution of galaxies.

Another of the outstanding CATA scientists present was Millarca Valenzuela, academic of the Department of Geological Sciences of the Universidad Católica del Norte and PhD in Sciences with mention in Geology from the Universidad de Chile, recognized internationally for her studies of meteorites. She says that at the beginning Earth sciences were not included, but with her colleagues they came together to send a letter pointing out that this discipline is also a STEM area: three female geologists have already been awarded. “This is an initiative that has been marking generations. It started in 2007 and I got the award the second year, but the awardees are just the tip of the iceberg, there are many women scientists. I hope this will also be an incentive for the new generations of women who want to dedicate themselves to science to feel that they are not alone.

The Minister of Science, Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, Silvia Díaz, stated that the figures indicate that women graduates in STEM careers in Chile is 7%, while in OECD countries this figure amounts to 13%. “Of the 47 most productive authors we have in Chile, only seven are women. Recognitions like this allow women who are beginning their careers to continue in a better way a path of professional development that, being complex for everyone, is more so for women”.