GENDER UNBALANCE: PAST CONNECTIONS AND CURRENT ACTIVITIES


When it comes to curriculum and past experience, its hard to come from Argentina as resources are not so many. Moving forward is ten times more challenging than doing so in a first-world country. However, I am proud about Argentina in one particular aspect, and this is the balance between women and men in academia. An abstract of  this article highlights how relatively good we are doing when compared to other well developed countries, when gender unbalance is reviewed:


Table 1 shows the percentage of female members of the IAU per country, for those countries with more than around 40 members in 2009. Argentina has the highest percentage of women by far, whereas the UK and USA have fairly low percentages. Only seven countries have more than 20% female members in the IAU. [...] In Argentina, 36.7% of their IAU members are female (in 2009), and this compares well with the percentage of the 175 tenured researchers and professors (34.9%). The male—female ratio of graduate students and young researchers is 50—50. At the most senior level, with the distinguished and emeritus researchers, 2 out of 14 are female (14.2%). Gloria Dubner (recently appointed a Director at Instituto de Astronomía y Física del Espacio [IAFE] in Buenos Aires) provided these figures. Marta Rovira is the President of the Argentina National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET), and she is now a vice president of the IAU. There has been an important advance in CONICET recently: the maximum age limit for access to fellowships and permanent positions has been relaxed for women whose careers were put on hold because of maternity (while everything, of course, is based on the quality of the applicants).


In 2010 I earned the privilege of doing a PhD in Germany. This was a gigantic step for me, as I was leaving home to find better opportunities. Only one year after my arrival to this well developed country, I would leave the "argentinian gender balance bubble" for good. During a review by the German state to assess if my group would have its funding renewed, I was surprised by two things. First, we had the chance to ask our boss whatever we want. So I asked him how many students applied to my position. The first part of his reply made me happy, as I got to know that many students applied to it. The second part of his reply made me kind of sad: I was finally chosen because I was a woman. This was the first time in my life I was facing "positive discrimination". The second situation was actually funny, in a way that if one looks at it from outside it would be super ironic. One of the researchers in charge of the review took me to a corner of the room where we were all having some snacks and drinks, and asked me if I ever felt harrased by a man. He was very tall, very German, and super close. I wanted to tell him "Yes, now, and by you", but I didn't do it. I was just getting born from my beautiful bubble.


Since then, some years passed by. I grew in experience and I learned how to deal with the system so that it affected me as little as possible, both personally and professionally. In Denmark, things appear to be as tricky as in Germany. At the Department of Physics and Astronomy only two permanent staff members are females. The rest, all males. Besides this, I see young students seeking for a female mentor they don't usually find. To deal with this, and to deal with many other things connected to this, I am member of the equality committee. We meet periodically to discuss topics connected to the improvement of the unbalance that does not only hits the department, but also Aarhus University as a whole.