MEDELLIN, Colombia – To defy stereotypes, sexism and discrimination and inspire girls with a vocation for science and technology to pursue careers is the formula for women to gain ground in a field still dominated by men.
That was the message of the women entrepreneurs in robotics, computing and engineering who spoke at this week’s MET-BBVA Forum on Women, Energy and Technology here in Medellin.
“First we must break with the cultural myth that these are matters for men. There is a discrimination problem, but science and technology have no sex,” Monica Sanchez, international director of the Global Foundation of Arts, Science and Technology, told EFE.
As an engineer specializing in instrumentation and control systems, Sanchez has brought robotics to dozens of Colombian schools, an experience she says confirmed to her that women are equal to men in scientific “creativity and curiosity.”
Sanchez is the creator of Colombia’s Girl Powered program, which strives to empower girls with knowledge of robotics and technology.
Women currently make up just 28 percent of the world’s scientific researchers, according to data from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
For Yanire Braña, executive director of the MET Community, an international, non-profit that promotes and supports entrepreneurship among women, the recent progress of women in science and technology is encouraging, but more remains to be done.
“There are brave, bold and innovative girls who can reach their dreams,” Braña said.
She could have been talking about 17-year-old Elizabeth Garcia, who is taking outside courses on software development along with her regular high school courses.
“I want to be an inspiration for girls who believe they are not a the level of science and technology,” Garcia said, adding that she sees herself becoming a systems engineer and is now working on an app to reduce the time people spend looking at their cell-phones.
“Young people are confusing spending time on social media with being tech-savvy,” the student said.
Garcia said that few girls she knows share her love for computer science, in part due to stereotypes that suggest women “were not made to think and innovate,” but to keep housework and look pretty.
The forum, which was organized to coincide with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, included 300 women entrepreneurs and BBVA Colombia CEO Oscar Cabrera.
“We are obsessed with promoting these types of initiatives and collaborating to create an ecosystem for women and technology,” Cabrera told EFE.