Latin America and Its Female Share in Scientific Advances

Policies to support women and girls in knowledge and research are still lacking.

The Woman Post | Michell Valdez

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Responding to the unknown is a task that not all people undertake since it requires study, research, and rigor. Deciphering social, natural, and even artificial phenomena merits observation and experimentation.

Talking about those women who have forged their careers in science leads us to want to vindicate them. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been a supporter and guarantor that we commemorate February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

In this work, it is important to highlight women researchers' roles in their various knowledge fields. We know that the process to achieve gender equality within this field is slow but not impossible. New policies are needed to support women and girls in science.

A Figure That We Must Reverse

The UNESCO document, called Deciphering the code, states: The education of girls and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) refers that only 28% of all researchers in the world are women and alludes that the inequality so profound, it does not happen by chance. “Too many girls are prevented from advancing because of discrimination, biases, social norms, and expectations that impact the quality of the education they receive and the disciplines they study. We need to understand the factors that generate this situation to be in a position to reverse these trends,” the text outlines.

The document provides a global overview of this underrepresentation, the factors behind it, and examples of improving girls' interest, engagement, and performance in these fields. It is known that both education and gender equality are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.

Women Who Contribute to Development

The Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (Clade) highlights the work and trajectory of Latin American women who have contributed to regional development through their profession. Here we mention some:

1. Bonnie Prado Pino, Colombian Aerospace Engineer

She was born in Quibdó, in the Colombian Pacific. Her tenacity led her to obtain her degree in Electrical Engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. An unparalleled opportunity, she took her to the University of Texas in the United States, where she worked as a visiting student for the Department of Aerospace Engineering, where she began her career. Working at NASA, she helped refine the development of robotic vehicles for space exploration.


2. Kathrin Barboza, Bolivian Biologist

She has dedicated a good part of her work to studying bioacoustics of bats. She conducted a pioneering study on ectoparasites related to bats from the Llanos de Moxos, Bolivia. In 2009, she was awarded the Young Explorers Scholarship by National Geographic, and in 2012, she received the L ’Oréal Unesco Scholarship for Women in Science. Together with her colleague Aideé Vargas, in 2006, she rediscovered the sword-nose bat, which was believed to have been extinct for more than 70 years. Her work led to the creation of the first ecological sanctuary in Latin America dedicated to conserving a species of bat.

3. Valeria de Paiva, Brazilian Computer Scientist

 Her academic and research activities have been oriented to the study of logical approaches to computing, especially using category theory, the representation of knowledge, and the semantics of the natural language, in addition to programming functional with a focus on foundations and type theories. Her work is remarkably diverse, highlighting her investigation of categorical models of linear logic, which produced surprising results regarding the imperative characteristics of programming languages, specifically the ML language.

4. Idelisa Bonelly, Dominican Marine Biologist

She is known as “the mother of marine conservation in the Caribbean.” She has developed marine biology in the Dominican Republic from her teaching position at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, where she promoted the creation of a career in biology to motivate young women to become scientists. Also, she participated in the creation of a research center on the subject (CIBIMA). Together with a group of Dominican and international organizations, she promoted humpback whale breeding grounds.

5. Nubia Muñoz, Colombian Pathologist and Epidemiologist

She is a doctor from the Universidad del Valle (Colombia). She has developed her work as an epidemiologist, studying the types of cancer that most affect the poor populations. Her work has helped discover the infectious agents of stomach cancer, liver cancer, and cervical cancer. One of the great satisfactions as a scientist is finding the human papillomavirus as the leading cause of this last type of cancer, which is the most common in developing countries. This work earned her a nomination for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008 and the “Canada Gairdner Global Health” award in 2009.

6. Ángela Restrepo, Colombian Microbiologist

She is a doctor in microbiology and scientific director of the Center for Biological Research in Medellín, Colombia. She has trained dozens of microbiologists and microbiologists. She was the only female member of the commission of Wise Men, which in 1994 proposed an education route for the development of Colombia.

The year 2020 reminds us that it was a challenging period with the Coronavirus's appearance, a disease that caused the loss of many lives. Humanity realized the importance of science today and the value that our professionals have in the fight to eradicate the virus that seems to want to continue among us.