To mark the end of its first year, the EU4Digital: Connecting Research and Education Communities (EaPConnect) project is highlighting four women whose expertise contributes to its partners’ success and the research and education organisations they support. In short videos, the women reflect on their careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) and how best to inspire further generations of girls to enter such areas of work.
Originally released in video episodes titled ‘Overcoming challenges’, ‘Female role models and mentors’, ‘Why diversity matters’, ‘The power of women’s networks’ and ‘Words for future generations’ as part of a wider social media campaign, the excerpts can all be viewed in an article on the EaPConnect website.
“When I started my career, I met an enormous amount of inspirational women who are professionals in the fields of networking, trust and identity, and services,” former EaPConnect project manager Ieva Muraskiene recalls. “They all are respected because of their knowledge and experience and I wanted to feel that way some day – to make an impact.” Previously an IT specialist with EaPConect partner LITNET and now Strategy and Policy Officer with NORDUnet, Ieva says that women can be great leaders, can achieve any goal they want and should be encouraged to understand that they can “make any technology work like a clock”.
“I am firmly convinced that when it comes to science, gender diversity has a number of advantages,” says Mariam Harutyunyan, Head of the Department of Informatics at EaPConnect partner the Institute for Informatics and Automation Problems of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia. In her experience, diversity improves productivity, creativity and innovation levels and ensures that studies reflect wider experience and views. Regardless of stereotypes, “I have proved that science, teaching, family and other occupations can be combined.”
Ecaterina Matenco of EaPConnect partner RENAM originally thought a career in cybersecurity was unattainable for a girl from a small Moldovan town. When she joined RENAM, her horizons widened as she met successful women from many fields in IT. “Then I felt supported, saw examples and was able to get inspiration from them,” she says. Ecaterina believes that the support of a women’s network is very important for girls who are unsure that their goals are realistic but are passionate to achieve them.
For biomedical scientist Professor Irma Khachidze of Caucasus University in Georgia, training is one key to reducing gender inequality and increasing the representation of women in STEM. She has seen how her female PhD students inspire interest in STEM among other young women. But she recognises that EU projects and practical actions and advice that increase representation in institutional and national meetings and symposia are also important factors. She urges any girls who have ambitions to go into STEM to “start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the ‘impossible’.”