International Day of Women and Girls in Science


Institutional Communication Service

11 February 2021

11 February is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, established by the United Nations General Assembly on 22 December 2015 to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. For the occasion, USI Faculty of Informatics is hosting an online meeting to foster dialogue and share experiences on these issues. The international anniversary also offers the opportunity to review USI's commitment to equal opportunities and take a look the European context, with some ongoing projects on gender equality in informatics.

Despite the global community's efforts in the last 15 years to inspire and engage women and girls in science, currently, less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women. Moreover, according to data provided by UNESCO, only 30% of all female students choose to pursue higher education in fields dedicated to so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). For this reason, the UN has established the international day dedicated to the fundamental role of women in science and technology. This event has among its objectives, overcoming prejudices and gender stereotypes that limit women's presence in the scientific world.

At the international level, the 6th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly will be held online on 11 February 2021, at the United Nations Headquarters. The central theme will be Equality in Science for Society, focusing on the value of the social aspects and cultural dimensions in Science, Technology and Innovation to accelerate progress in achieving the goals defined in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


International Day of Women and Girls in Science at USI

At USI the anniversary is celebrated, for the fourth consecutive year, by the Faculty of Informatics, with events organised by Professor Laura Pozzi.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic does not allow the traditional meeting to be held in presence on the Lugano campus. Therefore this year, an informal meeting will be held online (via Teams). All Bachelor and Master students, all PhD students and all professors of the Faculty are invited. Participants will have the opportunity to get to know each other, compare notes and share their stories as women active in the field of science.

For Laura Pozzi, to boost the presence of women in science "it is crucial to help women in the difficult reconciliation between work and family. In particular, it is necessary to give the possibility of part-time employment also to those who hold high-level positions, such as professors. I have chosen to work part-time throughout my university career to have time to devote to raising my children, in addition to the hours dedicated to my career".


USI's commitment to equal opportunities

USI is active in equal opportunities with several initiatives aimed at increasing gender equality in the university environment.

The promotion of women's academic careers is a priority for the Equal Opportunities Action Plan, which fosters activities such as the Academic Mentoring programme and Shadowing. Also, the Equal Opportunities Delegation monitors academic staff's selection and recruitment processes against any possible prejudice against female candidates.

As far as STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are concerned, there is a collaboration between the Equal Opportunities Service and the Faculty of Informatics regarding the "Girls and Informatics" programme, which aims to promote greater access of young female students to this field.

Among the activities that are part of the programme is the annual scholarship of 4,000 CHF awarded to a student admitted to the first year of the Bachelor's degree in Informatics, and the new Professional Mentoring programme, organised in collaboration with the Career Service and the Business and Professional Women Club Lugano, and reserved for female students of the Masters in Informatics and Finance.


Some figures

1,591 female students are currently enrolled at USI, including Bachelor, Master, Doctorate and Continuing Education programmes, compared to a total of 3,350 (data updated to the autumn semester of 2020).

As far as Bachelor's and Master's, 61 female students are enrolled in the Faculty of Informatics, compared to 280 male students. On the other hand, 58 female students are attending the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences; the number of men, in this case, is 35.

The Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society counts 557 female students and 273 male students. There are 341 women and 528 men in the Faculty of Economics, while in the Academy of Architecture, there are 406 female students and 384 male students.

There are 142 female PhDs among all five faculties, compared to a total of 342 PhD students. There are 26 women in Continuing Education programmes and 59 men.

The entire USI academic staff is 1008, including 356 women. Figures by category are as follows: Professors 127, of whom 25 are women (19.7%); Lecturers 239, of whom 65 are women (27.2%); Assistant Professors and Adjuncts/Scientific collaborators 642, of whom 266 are women (41.4%).

"The figures on the presence of women in USI's academic staff clearly show that there is still a long way to go. The current situation is not satisfactory," says Sonja Hildebrand, Pro-Rector for Research in the Humanities and Equal Opportunity at USI. "Much has been done in the field of equal opportunities at USI in recent years. We, therefore, need to intensify our efforts, through a stronger presence of the Equal Opportunities Delegation in the recruitment processes and the promotion of academic careers, while continuing to work on a common culture at USI built on the values of diversity."


European Network For Gender Balance in Informatics

To understand what projects are underway and what is being done at European level to raise awareness on gender equality in Informatics, Monica Landoni, lecturer and researcher at the USI Faculty of Informatics, explains the role of the European Network For Gender Balance in Informatics (EUGAIN COST ACTION), of which she is a member.

EUGAIN COST ACTION aims to connect all of its participants to share good examples, discuss those that are not, and highlight what still needs to be done to achieve a balanced presence of women in Informatics.

"The stated goals of EUGAIN COST ACTION", explains Monica Landoni, "are to give guidelines and recommendations to the academic community, gender policymakers, industry and other stakeholders to manage the many challenges related to gender balance in the various fields of informatics. The common goal is to get more girls to choose Informatics for their undergraduate studies. It is important to prevent girls from dropping out of college and encourage them to pursue a successful career in Informatics. Other important goals are to push more girls to pursue PhDs and post-PhDs experiences; to stay in the university and aim for tenure positions, and to encourage and inspire young women to pursue careers in Informatics by helping them overcome the various obstacles that prevent them from reaching more prestigious positions."