11 February 2022
Unite! advocates the firm commitment of universities to women in science and technology
The alliance joins the celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and makes visible the projects, initiatives and testimonies of young women who strive to achieve full and equal access and participation of women and girls in science
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, is a day dedicated to reflect on the relevance of not only including women in our academic and professional disciplines, but striving to achieve full and equal access and participation for women and girls in science overall. Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals (SDGs). That is why the United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2015.

Unite! sees this international goal as core in the constitution of its values and operations, as our alliance aims to connect engineering, science and technology with the grand challenges of society in co-creation by students, faculty and staff – providing skills for a new generation of European and global citizens.. 

Where once near exclusively men were found, today an increasing number of women in STEM fields are determining technical developments and scientific progress. However, according to the latest UNESCO Science Report, women remain a minority in digital information technology, computing, physics, mathematics and engineering, the very fields that are driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution. That is why it is so relevant that efforts are made at the academic levels not only to attract girls and women to these fields but, above all, to retain them.

The Unite! Diversity and Inclusion Charter defines inclusive education "as a cross-cutting task, systematically embedded in the structure and development of all its operations". The universities that are part of the alliance work to create and maintain inclusive learning, educational exchange and working environments that ensure the presence of women in all areas of their operations, as a key accelerator of social change and innovation.

For science to be also diverse, inclusive and femenine
Today for this international day, the different universities that make up our alliance "join" this celebration to make visible the efforts that are already being carried out from our universities and to highlight the need for science to be also diverse, inclusive and femenine. Let’s have a look at what our partners are doing and what a female student and alumni community thinks about this challenge: 

  • In Aalto University, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Plan (EDI) defines the ways in which they promote the equality, diversity and inclusion of their community. The university has taken various actions to foster gender diversity in teaching and learning, some of them are: The Aalto “Shaking Up Tech” event, for upper secondary school aged girls to attract more girls into technical fields, and it has currently become a large-scale national event. They also developed an in-house headhunting service “Talent Search”, for identifying and attracting underrepresented groups to apply to Aalto. Last year, the university established the Equal Career Paths for Women – NOW! project, which aims to support and promote equal employment and career development focused on the field of technology. 
 As part of Aalto's “Shaking Up Tech” event,  Asa-Marie Kultima, a Finnish high school student, took over the position of Aalto’s rector for one day. Through the takeover, she hoped to spark a debate on the role of women in technology, as she explained: 

“I have occasionally experienced some strange prejudices for my interest in mathematics, chemistry or physics. I think women are fully capable of working on technology, and I hope that through the takeover we will gain visibility on the subject and break these prejudices.”

Asa-Marie Kultima
Photography of Asa-Marie Kultima, a Finnish high school student, took over the position of Aalto’s rector for one day

  • Grenoble INP UGA sees gender equality as a transversal effort and invests in enabling all talents, whatever their origins, to successfully undertake long scientific and technological studies. They center their efforts towards including women in their scientific studies by reaching the young through both of the following programmes. ACE: Access to scientific studies and Equal Opportunities, the purpose of the project is to work with partner high schools, offering personalized assistance for motivated students evolving in environments unfamiliar with higher education. On a similar line, "Engineer discovery class” was created to respond to the problem of young people's disaffection for scientific and technical studies. On the other hand, last year the university participated in "La Science Taille XX Elles" where twenty large portraits of 21 women scientists from Grenoble were on display in the heart of the city garden. This exhibition, supported by the scientific and academic community of Grenoble, invited the discovery of women with fascinating and varied scientific careers.

  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) is also working to achieve gender equality goals and for this academic year 2022, has integrated a research-based gender equality and diversity education module into the compulsory courses of each of the almost 120 programmes (from bachelor's to doctoral). In this article, Eileen Torres, a master's student, explains that "discovering that almost half of their professors are women and seeing them in the classrooms has inspired me to follow in their footsteps and become a researcher", she says, "because their research topics are interesting and they are very empowered in their area of knowledge".  
 In the area of innovation, the university has significantly increased the proportion of women participating in its funding programmes.  KTH alumni Sandra Thengius is now working to enable Sweden's energy transition and contribute to a more sustainable future. For her:

"The future must reflect our values, and then it will be important that we have different kinds of views and opinions. Greater diversity in workplaces and management groups provides better conditions for the industry to develop and succeed."

Sandra Thengius
Photography of KTH alumni Sandra Thengius
       Photographer Iza Boëthius

For Tonima Afroze, alumni and current algorithm developer at Spotify: 

"Technology reflects the world around us, and for technology to include everyone, we need diversity among those who create it. We must remember that it is people who build the algorithms. The only way to eliminate mistakes is through diversity".

Photography of Tonima Afroze, KTH alumni and current algorithm developer at Spotify
Photographer Iza Boëthius

  • Politecnico di Torino (PoliTo) has been working for more than twenty years towards the achievement of Equal Opportunity, which includes attention to the gender balance of the student population and staff, they have been committed to this challenge with various projects such as the Women: Engineering Profession project in the early 2000s to the current WeAreHERe project. 

WeAreHERe is a campaign characterized by physical and communication actions aimed at increasing the number of female students enrolled in courses in STEM paths. WeAreHERe is a community, made up of students, teachers and technicians who fight to dispel gender stereotypes by telling their experiences. In addition to these initiatives, opportunities for dialogue and individual counseling activities are favored, such as mentoring activities provided by the female students of the Master’s degree programmes towards the 1st year engineering students at a Bachelor’s level.
 
When we asked Silvia Giangaspero, a Bachelor student in Biomedical Engineering at PoliTo, about the importance of having more diversity in the science industry, she explained :

“From a young age, women are used to thinking that they don't have a knack for STEM disciplines, that they're not talented or capable. This is wrong. Because technology has no gender."

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Big Sister: Offers opportunities in mentoring and networking for female students with a migration background or from abroad. Mentoring Hessen: The joint project of Hessian universities and colleges supports the career development of female students and scientists. Coaching Offer for female professors in career and personnel development.
 
When the university asked their students what it's like to enter the STEM field at TU Darmstadt as a woman? Julia, a bachelor student in Business Administration/Industrial Engineering at TUDarmstadt replied :

“In part, I was confronted with questions such as, 'Will you be able to find a job later?' I know there are still differences between men and women both in society and in working life and all other areas. That needs to be changed. But that is only possible if there is a commitment to it and every woman can do what she wants, be it professionally, or privately. And I want to do my part by doing what I like."

 
Photography of Julia, a bachelor student in Business Administration/Industrial Engineering at TUDarmstadt
Photographer Britta Hüning

  • In Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) , its Equal Opportunities Plan has laid their strategic framework for action including various initiatives aimed at increasing gender diversity within the institution and society. The UPC focuses on actions aimed at making better use of femaleEqual Opportunities Plan, has talent, highlighting women's work in science and engineering, bringing technical studies closer to young women, and increasing the number of vocations.The STEAM UPC program is an exemple. Directed at girls between the ages of 9 and 14 in Catalonia, wants to break the stereotypes and gender roles set in society and make new female referents visible in an attractive way for girls during their secondary education.
Women's Network and Mentoring  through M2m mentoring program, facilitates networking activities, mentoring, mutual learning and empowerment of women to encourage their personal and professional development in both academic and professional fields.
Coinciding with the International Day of Girls and Women in Science, different schools and faculties have organized activities to highlight women who are leaders in their fields of study and to show the talent and projects that many of them develop.

Alba Badia is a graduate student in Engineering in Industrial Technologies at UPC, she is also the leader of Cosmic Research Students Association of the School of Industrial, Aerospace and Audiovisual Engineering (ESEIAAT). Her association made history this year as it successfully built and launched the most powerful suborbital supersonic rocket built so far in Catalonia and the most powerful in Spain built by university. 

When we asked Alba about her opinion regarding the role of women and girls in science as agents of change, she said that

“In the industry of dreaming big, creating the impossible and finding solutions to unsolvable problems, for me, the key is the word 'diversity'. All this magic that the STEAM industry brings to us every day wouldn't be possible without multidisciplinary teams made up of incredible minds that have the capacity of mixing all their knowledge to find the best solutions. For that reason, if we want to continue expanding our knowledge,  we need to do our best to create the most diverse groups we can, and that includes having more women”. 

Photography of Alba Badia, a graduate student at UPC holding a sample of the suborbital supersonic rocket


  • At ULisboa, the university developed a gender equality plan, to ensure a culture which enables women and men equal opportunities within the STEM fields of study. Within their plan they also include concrete actions and some of the most relevant initiatives are the following: 
Shaping the Future -  promotes the integration and adaptation of junior faculty and researchers, through mentoring actions, which include reflection on gender balance, diversity and gender equality, aimed at improving their understanding of diversity and equality issues as well as their communication and teaching skills 
The Maria de Lurdes Pintasilgo Award - Promote the example of former student Maria de Lurdes Pintasilgo as an engineer and national leader, it reward annually two women, as a way to promote the gender balance policy and recognise the crucial role that women have in all fields of Engineering.
Engineers for a day Project - The initiative aims to promote equality between men and women in the science, engineering and technology sector, through several visits to different schools, with the purpose of promoting an activity, related to an engineering area, composed of 3 moments: a theoretical explanation, execution and a final debate about the theme.

"When it comes to working in engineering, if you are surrounded by narrow-minded people, there are a lot of concepts that will be neglected. Being "Engineering" the application of science and math to
solve problems of our complex world then a more diverse team of engineers will lead to a better outcome. Therefore, not only as a woman of science but especially as a person, my main goal is to give my contribution to society and that it comes to a day in which there is no need to state why it is important for there to be diversity in STEM."

Marta Bárbolo, Electrical and Computer Engineering Student at Instituto Superior Técnico Universidade de Lisboa.

Técnico Lisboa_ Marta Bárbolo LEEC.jpg


"Being a female researcher at ULisboa means having the opportunity to work with leading professors and professionals in all fields, as well as contributing to the development of knowledge.

Camile Wiederkehr a Researcher at the Unite!Program from the Department of International Affairs at IST-ULisboa.

Photography of Camile Wiederkehr a Researcher at the Unite!Program from the Department of International Affairs at IST-ULisboa.