Valencia, Spain, Jun 27 (EFE).- Leveraging technology education as a catalyst for gender equality and a hammer to break glass ceilings is the goal pursued by the School for Female Leadership. The institution is coming to Valencia this week to educate young women from across Europe.
This marks the first time the roving academy, championed by Chinese tech giant Huawei, has landed in Spain. The academy is celebrating its fourth edition with content “adapted to industry trends and labor market demands,” the school’s director, Spaniard Berta Herrero, told EFE.
“And what’s most important this year? What we call green and digital skills. That is, equipping students to not only lead the technological revolution but also the ecological and energy transition,” Herrero said.
In Valencia, 29 young representatives from each EU country, along with Albania and Ukraine, will participate until Friday in master classes, roundtables, and workshops on topics linked with the digital age. These range from the ethics behind artificial intelligence to innovation in healthcare and cybersecurity.
Among the attendees is Nekane Estalayo, the 23-year-old representing Spain in the Leadership School. Estalayo, who recently graduated with a dual degree in Service Management and Engineering and Business Administration, is currently working in cybersecurity.
“I started to be interested in the world of computing when I was five or six years old. I saw that there were computers at my home, my father was always tinkering, and I enjoyed seeing all the things I could do with computers more than other hobbies like painting or drawing,” Estalayo told EFE.
She regrets having to face a situation of “a severe lack of female role models” in computing, although she acknowledges “advancements” in recent years, mainly thanks to schools organizing talks for girls and teenagers with women in scientific careers.
“Even so, it is very important that this reaches everyone because I think many times it remains in very large areas, like Madrid and Barcelona, and other smaller provinces are a bit behind in this type of initiative,” laments Estalayo, who was born and raised in the northern Spanish city of Logroño.
In Spain, women only make up 29% of research staff and only lead 16% of scientific projects, according to a study published in January by the Institute for Women and the University of Santiago de Compostela.
WHY ARE WOMEN MISSING?
Beyond the lack of female role models in school textbooks, the sparse technology training among primary school teachers is another reason explaining the lack of interest among girls in this field, according to Núria Salán, the president of the Catalan Society for Technology.
“Primary school teachers usually do not come from a technology education background. They may have had it sporadically or tangentially, but not in a consolidated way, and it is very difficult to convey a passion for something you don’t have under your skin,” Salán told EFE. She is giving a lecture for the Valencia Leadership School.
This Doctor in Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering advocates mandatory technology training for primary school teachers. She urges authorities to design materials that “include names of female inventors” to show that “men and women do everything equally.”
“For now, Marie Curie is practically the only name a girl may see during her years of education. And while Marie Curie was a brilliant model, she was very good but also very sad, so she’s not particularly attractive,” laments Salán.
She believes that the gender gap in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is a factor that “affects” the quality of research because, in her opinion, “the more diverse inputs and the more varied the design approach to solving a problem, the more effective it will be.”
After all, “engineering is about solving problems ingeniously,” and for this reason, Salán advocates not to waste the talent and ingenuity of 50% of the population, i.e., women. EFE
(This report is part of a series supported by Huawei. Efe’s editorial content is independent of Huawei’s position)