In an interview, Regina Madalozzo, an Insper professor and economist specializing in Gender Economics, reflects on the presence of women in the field of science
On February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated. Despite advances, the gender gap in the scientific field remains a major challenge for the main knowledge production centers in the world.
A study published on the Wilson Center website in 2019 showed that women represent only 24% of the beneficiaries of a Brazilian government subsidy granted to the most productive scientists in the country (productivity fellowship).
For Regina Madalozzo, Insper professor, coordinator of the Gender Studies Hub at our Center for Business Studies (CENeg, for its acronym in Portuguese), and an economist specializing in Gender Economics, it is necessary to encourage girls to enter the world of science at an early age. “Undoubtedly, it encompasses education and equal treatment between men and women, so that it allows for a real option for the career that each of us believes is the best for herself.”
Check out our full interview with Prof. Regina:
How do you see the female presence in the research area?
In almost all scientific fields, the percentage of women in research is much lower than in other areas of activity. In Economics, for instance, we already have a low percentage of women who choose this undergraduate program. And when we progress to master’s and doctoral programs, that percentage ends up getting even lower.
In 2019, I produced a work along with researchers from the Brazilian Women in Economics group (EconomistAs) and the University of São Paulo (USP), as well as Prof. Priscilla Tavares, from Fundação Getulio Vargas’ São Paulo School of Economics (FGV-EESP). In it, we tracked men’s and women’s average grades in Economics programs. One of the possibilities we raised was that women did not do so well in college and therefore chose not to enter into a research career. However, the data showed that it is not what happens in practice. On average, men and women have equal grades in undergraduate courses at those three institutions. When a difference occurs, it is mostly of higher grades for women. In other words, it does not seem to be a matter of lack of ability that creates this blockage in pursuing a research career.
And in the private sector, how is the reception of women in companies working in research and science?
In the private sector, as in academia, there are some obstacles to women’s participation in research, but my impression is that businesses are more proactive when facing this issue. In academia, because we believe we have an unbiased judgment, we find it harder to recognize we value more the work done by men. So, we often discourage women from participating in research projects.
Currently, several associations – including the American Economic Association (AEA) – are working to make visible these differences in treatment. They range from a supposedly innocent research assistantship privilege to much more serious bullying or sexual harassment case. With that, a growth of women in science is expected.
What are the challenges to increase the female presence in the scientific universe?
The big challenge is to realize there is a problem. There is an argument that women prefer not to pursue a research career, but to what extent is this not a preference established via socialization and perception of the difficulties that women have, in addition to those that men have?
We need to encourage girls from an early age to enter the world of science, to make visible the research done by women and the achievements of those researchers that have gone unnoticed by the general public for many years. Undoubtedly, it encompasses education and equal treatment between men and women so that it allows for a real option for the career that each of us believes is the best for ourselves.
Regina Madalozzo holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States. She graduated from PUC-Rio and earned a master’s degree from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, both in Economics. She has been an Associate Professor at Insper since 2002. Her research field is labor economics, focused on the job market for women.
Regina is the Coordinator of the Gender Studies Center within our Center for Business Studies (CENeg). She participates in several forums related to women’s empowerment and women’s presence in the leadership of companies.