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From the Classroom to the Lab: Encouraging Young Women to Pursue STEM Careers


Women have historically been underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Despite progress in recent years, and according to various studies and reports from reputable sources, such as the European Commission, the European Institute for Gender Equality, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and international academic journals, female representation in STEM fields in Europe are low, with only around 30% of researchers in the EU being women. The gender gap in STEM is particularly pronounced in some areas, such as engineering and computer science, where only around 15% of professionals are women. 

There are several factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in STEM. One is a lack of role models and mentors for young women interested in pursuing careers in these fields: studies have shown that girls are more likely to pursue careers in STEM if they have female role models who have succeeded in these fields. This is particularly true for girls from underrepresented groups and most vulnerable families. Another is the persistent stereotype that women are not as capable as men in math and science. Additionally, women often face discrimination and bias in the workplace, which can make it difficult for them to advance in their careers. 

The European Union (EU) has recognized the importance of addressing this imbalance and has launched several initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality in STEM fields. One such initiative is the “European Platform for Women in Science,” which was established to support the career development of women in STEM. The platform provides access to mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as promoting best practices for gender equality in STEM research and innovation. Additionally, the EU has also launched a program called “Science: It’s a Girl Thing,” aimed at increasing the number of girls and young women interested in STEM subjects and careers. Another significant development has been the introduction of quotas and targets for the representation of women in STEM research and innovation.  

 Despite these challenges, there are many women who have made significant contributions to the STEM fields. For example, Rosalind Franklin’s work in X-ray crystallography played a crucial role in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Grace Hopper was a pioneer in computer programming and helped develop the first compiler. And more recently, Dr. Jane Goodall, a primatologist and anthropologist, has made ground-breaking discoveries about the behaviour of chimpanzees and has been a vocal advocate for conservation and animal rights. 

 There is still much work to be done to close the gender gap in STEM. Women continue to face persistent gender bias and a lack of career progression opportunities, which makes it difficult for them to reach senior positions. Moreover, there is also a need to change the way STEM subjects are taught in schools, as many girls are still discouraged from pursuing these fields due to the perception that they are “male-dominated.” To increase the representation of women in STEM, it is important to provide resources and support for young women interested in these fields. This includes providing access to role models and mentors, as well as offering programs and initiatives that aim to promote diversity and inclusion in STEM. It is also important to address the underlying biases and discrimination that women in STEM face so that they can advance in their careers and make meaningful contributions to their fields.

CLIMOS is also fighting the gender gap. In fact, at the moment the project is very balanced between men and women. About 50% of the people involved in CLIMOS are women. Furthermore, it should be noted that the project leadership is in the hands of Carla Maia from UNL. Since half of the consortium is female, the project is giving a voice to the women of CLIMOS through a weekly social media campaign, where we want to highlight the role of women in our project. 

In conclusion, the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields remains a significant challenge, but there have been notable efforts in Europe to address this imbalance. By promoting equal opportunities and addressing the underlying factors that contribute to the gender gap, it is possible to create a more diverse and inclusive STEM industry. The progress made so far provides hope that, in the near future, we will see a more equal representation of women in STEM fields across Europe. To address this, it is important to provide support and mentorship to girls and women in STEM, address discrimination and bias, and provide opportunities for women to advance in their careers. By taking these steps, we can help to ensure that women have an equal opportunity to succeed in STEM fields, and that we are able to tap into the full potential of women in STEM.