Women’s inclusion in today’s science

By: Saskia Hoving, Wed Mar 1 2023
Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

Women still face structural barriers to advance and consolidate their careers as scientists. Despite their remarkable discoveries, women still represent only  33.3 % [1] 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.

What is your background, and could you tell us more about your previous roles and how that ties into what you do now?

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.

What would you say are the issues women face in academia in terms of diversity and inclusion?

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.”

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. What are the initiatives you see happening in this area?

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.

Do you have any tips on what we can do to elevate women in science?

  1. As a researcher the first thing is to be conscious of existing inequalities and the choices that we make as researchers, including for example what subjects of study, authors, references, and concepts we are going to use in our research. It is also important to read and cite other women scientists. A practice I have adopted in my publications is to include the authors’ full names in citations and references, so it is easier to acknowledge when a paper was written by a woman. This is a small step that makes a world of a difference when someone is reading your paper. And sometimes you must be bold and allow yourself to take this type of risk, because some people may question or will not accept this deviant behavior, as it defies cultural and academic norms that help perpetuate gender inequalities.
  2. As a librarian, one of the ways we can elevate women in science is by using our knowledge to help create bibliographies and references that include a wider diversity in terms of authors’ gender and race, and this curation can be extended to library collections. Also, we can bring programs and services to the library to highlight this collection’s diversity to patrons, or even to give voice to the women in the community they serve. Another important element, despite the usually major presence of women among library staff, is to be aware of gender equality when hiring or promoting staff.
  3. And as a publisher, it is important to increase women’s participation in editorial roles, including Editor-in-Chief, and be open to diversity, welcoming more contributions from women scientists as authors, peer reviewers and board members.

About Andréa Gonçalves

Andréa Gonçalves © Springer nature 2023
Andréa is Account Development Manager for Latin America at Springer Nature. She holds an M.Sc. degree in Library Science and has built an extensive career in information management and scholarly communication. Her areas of expertise include electronic publishing, customer education, Open Science, and citation metrics. Currently, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Information Science, studying strategies of Latin American scientific journals to position themselves internationally, and a Ph.D. in History and Politics, investigating Black students’ access to graduate school in Brazil. She is a member of the Springer Nature Black Employees Network (SN BEN).

[1] According to the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (2021)

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Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

In the Dordrecht office, Marketing Manager Saskia Hoving produces The Link Newsletter for research communities. Focusing on the evolving role of libraries regarding SDGs, Open Science, and researcher support, she explores academia's intersection with societal progress. With a lifelong passion for sports and recent exploration into "Women’s inclusion in today’s science", Saskia brings dynamic insights to her work.