Gender equality

I am the first of my family to attend university and hold three degrees (BSc, MSc and PhD)

Last month “Women Just Wanna Have OR: Young Researchers Interview Expert Researchers”, a very interesting article on gender equality, was published on SN Operations Research Forum. This article has been written by six young women researchers (Lavinia Amorosi, Rossana Cavagnini, Veronica Dal Sasso, Martina Fischetti, Valentina Morandi and Alice Raffaele), who interviewed affirmed women researchers in different STEM field (Margarida Carvalho, Anna Nagurney, Dolores Romero Morales, Ivana Ljubic ́, Martina Labbè and Grazia Speranza).

I interviewed Valentina Morandi to know more about this article.

Where did the idea to write this article come from?

The idea of ​​writing the article was born during the 4th workshop of AIROYoung, the Italian association for operational research under 35 section, which was held in Bolzano last year. Our group of researchers under 35 proposes and organizes many activities to act as a bridge between job market and young operational researchers. The group has more than 100 members and it is the main reference point both for companies in the sector and for young investigators. The AIROYoung group has a governing body, called the AIROYoung board, composed by 5 members including myself, all women. We began to investigate the percentages of male and female presence in various roles and the article is the result of our research. In the world of Operations Research, women are in a clear minority and the situation becomes more critical as you move up into academic positions. However, the article was not intended to be a feminist claim, but an invitation to new generations of women to jump into STEM subjects that in the past were considered men’s subjects.

What idea do you have about the difficulties that women have to face to be successful in the academic world and more generally in STEM fields? How could the current situation be improved?

Personally, I have not experienced many differences in treatment between myself and my colleagues. I am part of a generation that is attentive to the theme and inclusive. I have also always had female supervisors. However, some people report entirely different experiences, showing that the issue still needs to be addressed. The difficulties can be many, from family management to the clichés that still accompany some professions. In my opinion, gender equality should be transversal, that is, guaranteeing the same opportunities for both men and women, in all fields. I also believe that the only way to achieve complete gender equality is through education and the education of the new generations. It is very difficult to eradicate a preconception from an adult, while educating the new generations to equality is a moral obligation that we should impose on ourselves as a civilization.

The article made clear that many women, after a STEM degree, leave the academic/industry career to become teachers making the leaky pipeline more and more leaky. Many women choose to do that because they have passion for the teaching activity, others made the same choice for different reason: they don’t think they are good enough to become researchers and/or university professors.

I totally agree with the authors of the paper:

it is fundamental to provide example to younger generations and to promote gender equality starting from school education.

Reference

Amorosi et al., “Women Just Wanna Have OR: Young Researchers Interview Expert Researchers”, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1007/s43069-020-00039-8

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