Women still face structural barriers to advance and consolidate their careers as scientists. Despite their remarkable discoveries, women still represent only 33.3 %  of researchers globally, and their work rarely gains the same level of recognition as their male counterparts. We’ve asked former librarian, and now Account Development Manager, PhD student and researcher, Andréa Gonçalves, about her experiences throughout her career, and what initiatives there are already in place to break down the barriers for women in science.
It is often challenging to find actionable strategies and practical steps that can support the efforts to elevate women in science. Having worked as a researcher, a librarian, and within scholarly publishing, Andréa has a unique perspective on how women can be supported and advanced in their scientific career.
Below you will find some of Andréa's practical ideas that can be implemented to encourage and promote gender mainstreaming. She also highlights great initiatives that are related to this year's International Women's Day theme "DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality".
Andréa has extended knowledge of the librarian and researcher environment with an M.Sc. in Library Science. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in History and Politics while also finishing another Ph.D. in Information Science.
I recently moved back to my home state, São Paulo, Brazil, after 18 years away living and working in Mexico, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. So, I’m grateful to live close to family again, and for the chance to work with the librarian and research community in Latin America.
I still like to say that I am a librarian first. Much of what I do at work, regardless of the role, echoes this background in terms of technical knowledge and expertise but also regarding the ethics of the profession about how to deal with information management and information users.
“Because I was trained as a librarian and IT specialist, it comes in handy sometimes to understand what is happening on the customer’s side”
I joined Springer Nature in 2022 as an Account Development Manager for Latin America, a role devoted to supporting our customers’ journey with Springer Nature content. This demands a level of hands-on, technical skills to resolve practical issues, such as remote access setup, metadata integration to library systems, and usage reports, to name a few.
For me, one of the most pleasant parts of the job is being able to share our thought leadership topics with librarians. This can be done in formal meetings or informal conversations, but also when we organize webinars and other events to discuss subjects of interest for the wider research community.
I’m mostly concerned about women’s inclusion, because we are still faced with several structural barriers to advance and consolidate our careers as scientists. For example, it is a fact that women outnumber men in the Humanities, and yet, studies show that we receive fewer citations than male researchers, have our names pushed down the line of authorship in articles, and are less considered as editorial board members or as editors-in-chief of scientific journals.
Other than that, in many cases, women are the primary caregiver for their families, which allows us less time to dedicate to research, and we may have our career paused or even interrupted for good after maternity. This was not the case for me, but it was hard. My son was only two months old when I was accepted into the master’s program, so until today my colleagues joke that he was the youngest student ever to attend classes.
As of 2021, the Lattes Platform, a database that gathers the CVs of all Brazilian researchers, included the option to acknowledge maternity leave as part of a researcher’s trajectory. This is a great achievement for scientist mothers.
“We need to fight for more formal mechanisms like this to recognize our unique experiences and validate our status as researchers.”
It is so exciting to see many initiatives popping up in Latin America and other parts of the world that aim to welcome women and girls to science, particularly in STEM. We need these role models; our girls need more and more examples and opportunities to normalize their presence in the scientific arena. And we need big names in the scientific community to put the spotlight on and reward those initiatives to make them thrive and multiply.
Initiatives that contribute to that are the Nature Awards for example, and in particular “Nature Awards for Inspiring Women in Science”. Among them were two recent Latin American winners in the Science Outreach category. The 2022 winner was Tem Menina no Circuito (Girls on the Circuit), a project created by a group of professors at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to encourage girls to enjoy sciences and technology.
In 2020, this award was given to Chicas en Tecnología (Girls in Technology), a project from Argentina that seeks to reduce the gender gap in the technological entrepreneurial environment by motivating, training and mentoring young women as the next generation of leaders in technology.
It is also worth mentioning the Parent in Science Movement, winner from 2021. The Movement's mission is to support mothers in science, proposing public policies and establishing actions and programs, such as financial support to guarantee the permanence of student mothers in higher education, and a practical guide for offering recreation for children in scientific events.
When I joined Springer Nature, I was amazed to see so many support networks for employees, such as SN Parents, SN Women, SN BEN (Black Employee Network), SN Pride, SN D&N (Disability & Neurodiversity), just to name a few. It seemed to me a clear recognition of the diversity of conditions and interests that exist in a group as geographically and culturally heterogeneous as the one we find in a global company.
 According to the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (2021)
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