Women have always played a key role in science, engineering and technology, making countless contributions in different fields and sectors, including the automotive industry, with the invention of turn signals, for example. However, women are still a minority in the areas known as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). According to UNESCO, they represent 35% of the students enrolled in these studies, with notable differences between disciplines. Detachment from these areas can begin at a very early age, partly as a result of gender stereotypes and prejudices. For this reason, on the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, SEAT brought together two generations with the same passion, to build a better future through science.
Inspiring younger women from an early age is fundamental.
Women in STEM. Jana Planagumà is a 1st year secondary student at the Salesians de Rocafort School in Barcelona. She’s only 12, but knows what she wants: “I love maths and when I decide my future I’ll go for it without anything or anyone stopping me”. Paqui Lizana is a telecommunications engineer and Head of Digital Products at SEAT. She considers it essential to inspire and attract young girls to the world of science, engineering and technology. “Increasing the number of women in these areas is key to successfully overcoming the disruptions of the future”, she maintains.
Switching up the formula.
“I was in the top 900 out of 15,000 students in the 5th grade maths exams” says Jana. At her age, Paqui was already embarking on all sorts of STEM adventures, experimenting with physics, maths and chemistry concepts. “I even invented a code to cheat on exams, which in the end, was more complicated than the exam itself”, she laughs.
Overall, according to UNESCO, there is a positive trend towards closing the gender gap in learning outcomes in these subjects. For example, the results of the PISA science test, carried out by 15-year old students in over 70 countries, show that boys and girls score about the same in one third of the countries; with boys excelling over girls in another third, and girls excelling over boys in the final third.
Currently, only 24% of engineering graduates are women.
“My creativity and passion for problem solving is what led me to study telecommunications engineering. For me, STEM fields are the energy to change the status quo, they’re a revolution and that’s something that’s not just for men, it’s for everyone” says Paqui. However, only 24% of engineering graduates are women, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but Jana is very clear about the reason: “I’m sure there are many girls whose dream is to go into engineering, but they’re afraid. I’d tell them to go for it without hesitation”, she explains.
When Jana is asked about women scientists, the first name she mentions is Marie Curie. Ada Lovelace is second, considered to be the first programmer in history. “These references are perhaps a little antiquated; if we update them, girls will see that among today’s scientists, programmers, researchers and engineers, there are inspiring women with all kinds of profiles”, says Paqui. Jana agrees with her: “There are many, many women leaders in science, but we don’t see them”. A study by the Geena Davis Institute, Gender Bias Without Borders, shows, for example, that the representation of women working in science on the big screen amounts to only 12%.
Women are the future of mobility.
SEAT is currently one of the companies in the automotive sector with the highest number of women, representing 21% of the workforce. There is a place in mobility design where young students like Jana can build a career and develop their STEM skills. “Now is the time for us. We’re going to be key to its transformation, bringing diversity to transferable skills such as innovation, sustainability and user experience, areas in which we excel”, Paqui points out.
Engineers and scientists of tomorrow.
For Paqui Lizana, studying STEM empowers female students and equips them with the skills to be successful in changing environments. “I advise all of them to try things and experiment and when they find what they’re passionate about, go for it, because as a society we cannot allow them not to contribute to the challenges that the future holds for us.”