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The important role that women play in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

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Marie Curie was the first winner of a Nobel Prize in 1903 and, since then, only 16 women have won one in science compared to 572 men. In fact, UNESCO reports that only 28% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) researchers around the world are women on account of discrimination, bias, and deep-rooted notions in many societies. To this end, SDG 5 set by the United Nations as part of the 2030 Agenda includes “Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.”

At present, as part of our diversity and equal opportunity policies, 32.7% of the women who work at MAPFRE serve in STEM positions in IT. Today, to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we sat down with our colleagues in these fields. They discussed the important role they play at MAPFRE and in society, and what their career path has been like up until now.

Women in STEM fields at MAPFRE

ThaysaThaysa Fernanda Elias is Senior Analyst in Rates and Models in the Actuarial Area at MAPFRE Brazil. Inspired by her mother, her biggest supporter, and by a math teacher with infinite patience who made her fall in love with the exact sciences, she knew from a young age that she would go on to study mathematics. Despite the obstacles she encountered along the way when she decided to study mathematics in a country that underestimated this science, she graduated and later continued her education with an MBA in Data Science & Analytics.

Patricia Gómez RañaPatricia Gómez Raña is Head of Data & Analytics in the Transformation Area at MAPFRE España. Patricia is the daughter of parents who work in STEM fields. In fact, her mother decided to study nursing when she was older, while raising her two children, and she has always been a courageous role model for her, as “it was a mammoth task that deserves recognition,” Patricia said.

When the time came to choose her studies, she decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps and chose to study telecommunications, a career that she enjoys more and more every day as she has seen how useful it is in a world as technological and hyper-connected as ours.

Elena MoraElena Mora González is Head of Privacy and Data Protection at MAPFRE España’s Corporate Security Division. Inspired by everything that Marie Curie achieved despite this coming at a time when the role of women, unfortunately, was relegated to the background, she decided to follow in her footsteps and study what she was passionate about, her favorite subject: mathematics.

Kris ZenaroKristine Zenaro is the IT Applications Service Manager at MAPFRE USA. She trained and was promoted once she entered the insurance industry, looking to her own managers as models, who inspired her to continue studying IT until she reached her current position.

Obstacles in their path and the glass ceiling

Thaysa, Patricia, and Elena agree that they have had to overcome challenges that their male colleagues have not faced. The clearest example of this is having to balance motherhood with a profession that requires serious dedication. However, all three feel privileged to work with their teams, the majority of whom are their peers, who have helped them to continue advancing and climbing the ranks, as well as gaining friends for life.

In society there are still certain stereotypes that we have to overcome, and all too often, we are the ones who impose them in the things we demand from ourselves, especially when you already have your family and you have to balance your personal and professional life,” asserted Elena.

The educational system and its role in young people’s vocation

Thaysa’s personal experience, having grown up with very few leading women in the STEM sector around her (she came across just three professors at university), means that she believes that schools need to dedicate time to developing leadership skills. In addition to quality learning, which is very important, she believes it is necessary to empower both boys and girls to prevent them from suffering from low self-esteem and even impostor syndrome when they enter the world of work.

Kristine, in turn, received training in STEM subjects after already having entered the world of work, since when she had to choose a subject at university, the visibility of science degrees was minimal and completely unknown to her and her peers. To this end, she also asserts that it is very important for girls to be provided with an education in STEM subjects at school.

This lack of visibility in relation to female scientists during the early stages of training was the same reason why Elena had to grapple with teachers who questioned whether a girl could study mathematical sciences. Despite this, she fought for her goal and achieved it.

How can we help girls who want to study science?

Fighting for their dreams, devoting hours to study, being eager to make things happen, and most importantly, doing this with enthusiasm, has helped these women reach their current positions.

In Patricia’s opinion, STEM profiles are and will continue to be, both at present and in the future, essential for the development of society, so choosing this type of training is a guarantee that you will be able to actively contribute to our globalized and digitalized world: 

To all girls considering studying these subjects, I would tell them not to be afraid and encourage them. I would tell them to be inquisitive, and don’t let anybody make you doubt yourself, because if you’re really intent on studying STEM subjects, being a woman is not an obstacle, quite the opposite. In my personal experience, studying engineering where women were a minority was not a problem and this really enriched me, because of the close ties I established with my female peers and the great friendships I still have today with my male peers.”

Through initiatives in all countries, such as the Female Leadership Development Program, the creation of diversity committees, or the Women’s Leadership Network, at MAPFRE we want to promote STEM professions among girls and women, thus working towards a fairer and more equal future.