The important role of Female Scientists in Brazil

Although in the last decades the role of women in Science has been more acknowledged and valued, today there are still many less women than men with doctorate degrees and in leadership positions in laboratories, universities and institutions. A recent international survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group revealed that less than one in every three researchers is a woman and that only 11% of top academic positions in scientific disciplines are held by women.

In order for significant change to take place, initiatives and efforts must be undertaken to support women in this field. The 2012 report “Scorecard on Gender Equality in the Knowledge Society,” published by the Elsevier Foundation, found that Brazil ranked first globally in women’s participation in science, technology and innovation. The study attributes this success to various factors, including a strong emphasis on gender equality and women’s rights (both professionally and at home), as well as Brazil’s heavy emphasis (and funding) on supporting science and technology education for all. Scholarship awards, particularly at the graduate level, “have aided women’s substantial participation”, concludes the study.

I have been fortunate enough to benefit from this support, which has helped me to advance my research. Over the last year, I have been working on my Project about the physiopathology of Psychiatric Disorders. In particular, we have studied the neurobiological aspects related to the cognitive and psycho-social decline in patients with bipolar disorder. This condition is highly disabling, reaching the 6th position in the ranking among various pathologies, according to the World Health Organization. In addition, it is associated to great personal suffering, a heavy family burden and high direct and indirect cost for society.

Therefore, studies such as this one, that help us better understand the biological basis related to a greater cognitive and psychosocial damage are extremely important. This could contribute to the development of new therapeutic strategies, with the purpose not only of treating the symptoms of the disease, but also to recover the cognition and the functionality of these individuals. We hope to have a lasting effect on people suffering from these types of disorders, their families, and society at large.

It is important to remember just how important women are, when it comes to making significant changes to our society. Brazil is on the right track, with many initiatives to support women, not only in science, but in various fields. However, as the BCG study reports, there is still much work to be done in order for women in science to hold top academic positions and leadership roles in labs. We are on the right track, but we must continue to work towards equality, which will allow us to effect change and improve conditions for all of society.

For Women in Science

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