Brazilian Academy of Sciences establishes a “Women for Science Working Group”
The Brazilian Academy decided to establish and fund a Women for Science Working Group (WG). This WG will hold its first meeting in early 2011 to discuss its objectives and working plan; and in the second quarter of 2011 a national workshop will take place to discuss the strategies for the sensitizing of the Brazilian scientific community to the need of promoting a more favorable environment for the participation of women in the areas of Science and Technology (S&T) in Brazil.
The Brazilian Academy of Sciences is indeed deeply concerned with gender barriers in S&T, not only because of moral considerations, but also for practical reasons. Science and engineering, which are key tools and catalysts for development and prosperity of society in the XXI century, are deprived every day of the stimulation that would result from the full inclusion of women, who would contribute a wealth of talents, vision and experiences. If society wishes to strengthen science and spread its values throughout the world, facilitating as much as possible its capacity to generate benefits and advancements to humankind, talent needs to be sought wherever it is. Scientific and technological entrepreneurship must belong to all, independent of nationality, religious belief, social background, ethnicity, or sex.
A first step by the Brazilian Academy in an effort to collaborate more effectively in cultivating a more inclusive environment for women in science in Brazil was the establishment of a partnership with L’Oreal Brazil in January 2006, when a national “For Women in Science” prize was launched. With the objective of encouraging the participation of Brazilian women in science, each year a group of talented young researchers who specialized in various fields in science were selected to receive a $20,000 grant to support their work. Since 2006, 33 women researchers from different regions of the country have received this prize, honoring a new generation of Brazilian scientists who, by their example, inspire new talents and future generations.
More recently, in June 2010, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences hosted the 7th Meeting of the National Focal Points of the Inter-American Network of Academies of Science (IANAS) Science Education Program in Rio de Janeiro. Understanding the shortcomings of traditional science education that affect girls and women, the meeting focused on gender issues in science education and discussed the empowerment of girls and women in S&T as well as the role of the Academies in removing obstacles to this enterprise. The day preceding this meeting, the IANAS Women-for-Science Working Group (WfS-WG), chaired by Johanna (Anneke) Levelt Sengers from the U.S. National Academy of Science (NAS) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) was launched in Rio. The synergy created by this meeting – which assembled participants from the Brazil National Ministry (Secretariat) for Policies for Women, the Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS), the Brazilian Chapter of the Gender Advisory Board (GAB-Brazil), the UNESCO Regional Chair “Women, Science & Technology in Latin America”, IANAS, and IANAS WfS-WG, as well as a hundred teachers who are engaged in science education from public schools in Rio de Janeiro – motivated the Brazilian Academy to establish a Women for Science Working Group. Four Brazilian laureates of the L’Oreal for Women in Science Prize – Mayana Zatz (2001), Lúcia Previato (2004), Belita Koiller (2005), and Beatriz Barbuy (2009) – all full members of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, will participate in this effort.