Barcelona City Council and BIST join forces to promote women's leadership in science
Barcelona City Council and the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) have signed an agreement to promote activities aimed at fostering gender equality in science. As part of this agreement, the City Council has awarded an exceptional direct grant to the BIST foundation for the development of the Women Leaders in Science and Technology project, with the aim of promoting a series of activities aimed at reducing the gender gap in the scientific community, for example by increasing the offer of mentoring for young women scientists and promoting science education projects.
This initiative is part of the deployment of the Barcelona Science Plan 2020-2023 through which the City Council promoted, in February 2022, the study Women and Science in Barcelona, a qualitative analysis of the factors that affect the careers of female researchers in the city. Some conclusions and recommendations of the study stressed the need to undertake measures to raise awareness among the scientific community of the everyday practices and stereotypes that are contributing to maintaining the inequalities suffered by female researchers. It also recommended reinforcing actions to make women scientists more visible, incorporating a reflection on the communication models, leadership, and management of research groups.
At the same time, this initiative falls within the scope of the commitments acquired by Barcelona as a result of the city’s status as cultural and scientific capital, which include the interest of Barcelona City Council in supporting and coordinating with the BIST Foundation for the development of activities in the field of science.
The data in Catalonia and in Europe as a whole still show a low female presence in scientific and technological studies, and also show that, as scientific careers progress, the percentage of women declines. According to the latest report L’estat de la ciència a Catalunya, only 24% of senior researcher and tenured lecturer positions in Catalan universities are occupied by women.
The Deputy Mayor for Culture, Education, Science and Community, Jordi Martí, recalls that “the study Women and science in Barcelona highlights that gender inequalities persist in the scientific field, pointing out how a career in research is made more difficult by motherhood than by fatherhood, or by more symbolic elements such as the lack of role models and examples for young female researchers”. For this reason, Martí adds, “the activities proposed by the BIST seem to us to be very relevant for promoting a more feminist science and knowledge ecosystem in Barcelona, one that overcomes the historical inequalities between men and women”.
BIST, a scientific cooperation institution of seven Catalan frontier research centres, has already been working in this direction, and the agreement arises from the shared concern about the low presence of women in the highest positions of the scientific career and the difficulties that generate it. “At BIST we have been promoting actions to close this gender gap for years. One example is the To the Mothers of Science programme, aimed at female researchers who are mothers, to provide them with resources to keep pushing forward in their research careers. This year, we have been able to expand this type of action, thanks to the support of the Barcelona City Council,” explains Núria Bayó, director of Programmes at BIST.
The actions promoted by BIST have focused on two aspects: strengthening the position of young women researchers in their research environments, showing them as role models for the new generations. Under the slogan “Step up in science; lead the change”, BIST encourages young girls to dedicate themselves to science and young women researchers to take the step to lead projects and research groups. BIST has also offered courses to female researchers in areas such as stress management, communication skills, leadership, and time management, as well as individual and group coaching sessions to female researchers who are mothers, and a mentoring programme that matches young researchers with established researchers and other professionals.
In addition, BIST has brought young researchers into the ESO classrooms of the educational innovation and STEAM teacher training centre Institut Angeleta Ferrer in Barcelona. “We have accompanied students in research projects, so that by doing them they learn about science and how science is done,” explains Laura Cabayol, a researcher at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IFAE) and the Scientific Information Port (PIC) who has participated in this project. “The fact of meeting researchers like Laura means that girls have female scientific references with whom they can project themselves”, adds Bayó.
The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) is an institution for scientific cooperation between seven frontier research centres in Catalonia: The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG); the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC); the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO); the Catalan Institute of Chemical Research (ICIQ); the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2); the Institute of High Energy Physics (IFAE); and the Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Barcelona (IRB Barcelona).