Female Power in Science

The gender gap in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is no secret to anyone. Historically, the presence of women in these areas has been limited and despite the fact that there are great efforts to promote spaces for women’s participation, many of them still have to face difficulties and obstacles that are just due to their gender.

For Diana Pazmiño, a female GSC researcher and teacher from the Galapagos, one of her challenges has been “to build and maintain a solid self-esteem and self-confidence over time.” Diana acknowledged that the academic and scientific world is still an unfriendly place for women, where on many occasions they are judged or it is constantly assumed that they are not capable of certain things.

Likewise, for Daniela Alarcón, researcher and member of the GSC staff, facing gender inequality has prompted her to be better in her field. “Sometimes you can see preferences of men before women, and you also see inequality in several related points such as field work, the maternity issue, the salary issue, credibility, among others, but that has rather been a challenge that prompts me to change this situation.”

The Galapagos is a place that stands out for the development of scientific work and research in many fields. Fortunately, the advances and efforts to include women and girls, especially in areas where males have generally predominated, are beginning to give results.

The Galapagos Science Center, aware of this reality, not only seeks to recognize the invaluable work that women carry out and the contribution that their research and findings mean for the sustainability of the archipelago but it is also constantly searching for initiatives where females can thrive.

In 2019, Diana Pazmiño began to shape her initiative called “Gill’s Club”, a space designed so that girls have the opportunity to get closer to science and encourage them to get involved from an early age in the scientific research field.

Camila Ojeda, a 10-year-old girl who has been an active member of the Gill’s Club since 2019, said, “I have read that a lot of women around the world have succeeded in doing science, but to do so they had to face many problems. Now girls have more opportunities to learn from science and research. I feel that being part of Gill’s Club motivates me to follow my wishes and dreams of protecting animals and that this will be very important for the conservation of many species in Galapagos and wherever I am.”

Currently, Diana is one of the leaders of the most important citizen science project developed in Galapagos, “Barcode Galapagos”, also known as BARCODE.  Among other things this project it is characterized by seeking gender equality among its participants, with 47% of the people hired being women and occupy in leadership and decision-making positions.

Empowering women not only in the field of science and technology, but in all areas of life, requires joint efforts. This is why the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim in 2016 that February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with the aim of achieving equitable access and participation in science. Today we celebrate all the GSC has done to help continue to empower women to make important contributions to science, the Galapagos, and the world.

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!