Glass ceiling: do you “see” it?
When I started the university courses, the first question I asked to myself was: “Why only 3 girls and 40 boys in the classrooms?” The answer arrived when I noticed the surprised look in the eyes of (almost all men) professors during the examinations that were successful, like saying “She is good notwithstanding she is a girl!”. I thought: “What ignorance!” without too much caring. Some years later I understood that this behaviour was very dangerous and it was the justification for slowing down or stopping the career of a woman in science.
For many (women and men) colleagues it is natural that women must work in a hostile environment and much more than men to get much less than men. But I ask: “Why? We are Women in Science… not extremophiles!”. Extremophiles live under extreme conditions thanks to their ability to identify solutions to adapt under non-conventional conditions that normally lead to the collapse of structures and to functional inactivation, in other words to death. Analogously, like extremophiles Women in Science must find several strategies to survive only because they want to do science!
It is obvious that women possess all the qualities to be successful, but this is not the point… The questions are: “Why our life in science must be a war and not a “normal” life as for men?”, “Why must we spend all these energies to fight against unjustified prejudices when we could spend the same energies for Science?”
Over the last few decades, increasing concern has been voiced at the “brain-drain” among women academics. When a woman drops out of science it is the scientific world that loses out. My greatest wish is to transform this “brain-drain” in a real “brain circulation”! And to change the “leaky pipeline” in a “female talent fall” who flows into and increases a thousand rivers of new ideas and researches!
As suggested in the EU Summit in Bruxelles in 2008, the “free movement of knowledge” is a priority to respond to the challenges of globalisation and this “fifth freedom” should be created by removing barriers to the cross-border mobility of researchers, students, scientists and academic staff and by providing researchers with “better career structures” including family-friendly career paths.
We know very well that women are not free to “circulate” in the science ways as they wish. We have the duty to fight against all the “no entries” for women, i. e. the visible and invisible obstacles that constitute the “glass ceiling” for women in science.
Glass ceiling refers to the unjustified barrier found by women in science. I would like to invite everyone to testify and share with our community her/his own experience. It would be very useful to present here a variety of national experiences, which will be very enriching for us not only to gather precious information, but also to identify innovative strategies to be used to attain the same goals.
It would be very nice that Agora will become the richest reservoir of different national experiences, conceptions and practices. Through this initiative, we hope to make Agora the preferred place to state the result of this reflection and sharing of life lessons drawn from your experiences in your countries. Our debates could be remarkable to improve planning and implementation of scientific policies at international and national level and to concretely change the status quo.
Dialogue is the crucial issue in Agora, so catch this opportunity to freely express your opinion and create a true exchange of views!