Science and gender gap: “Julieta in Girl’s Land” project culminates

Monday, 26 de September

The Explora CONICYT project was led by a group of scientists and communicators of the University of Chile who created an exploration kit to promote girls’ interest for science

A field trip with students from Nonguén (Biobío Region), and a ceremony at the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (University of Chile), marked the closure of “Julieta in Girl’s Land”, a Project funded by Explora CONICYT Projects for Science and Technology Popularization 2015.

The initiative arised from the concern of a group of scientists and communicators of the Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA), Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR2) and the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB), who created an alternative to the toys traditionally offered by the local market.

“Julieta in Girl’s Land”, is a set of exploration composed of a magnifying glass, a jar for sample collection, a field notebook with suggested activities, among other implements illustrated with the Chilean children’s character “Julieta”, which was specially adapted to promote the interest for science in girls from 7 to 11 years old.

Some of the beneficiaries were the students of the El Manzano School of San José de Maipo (Metropolitan Region) and Leopoldo Lucero School of Nonguén, (Biobio region). Both groups of girls went out to explore their environment with the set of “Julieta” in company of women scientists that participated in the development of the project.

“As a scientist, this experience reminds me the essence of investigating and discovering the simplest things,” says Laura Gallardo, head of the Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR2), during the closing ceremony of the Project, that also included the presence of Patricio Aceituno (Dean of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile, FCFM), Felipe Àlvarez (Associate Dean of FCFM) Alejandra Sepúlveda (Women Community) and Patricia Peña (Girls in Tech).

Gender free toys

Alejandra Sepúlveda, Executive Director of Women Community, highlighted the need to “overcome gender stereotypes and promote in men and woman the early socialization and development in all areas of knowledge.”

This is critical, especially in technology, where only 25% of university tuition are women. Patricia Peña of “Girls in Tech”, says: “in addition to the little percentage of participation, women in these areas often remain invisible to society”.

Felipe Alvarez (FCFM) presented the actions that the Science and Engineering School has led to achieve a better gender balance in this area: Priority Access System for Gender Equality:”Thanks to this program the number of women enrolled in first year went from 19% to 27%”.

Although “Julieta in Girl’s Land” officially ended in September, the coordinating team has several activities for the rest of the year, including the participation in the “Science and Engineering Festival” (University of Chile) and in the “Santiago International Book Fair” (2016)

An approach to scientific method

During one year, “Julieta in Girl’s Land” produced 700 exploration sets, that were distributed through an online contest for girls from Metropolitan and Biobío Region. Also, some sets were delivered directly to two vulnerable schools of the same regions.

To win one of the sets, girls had to send a question about plants, animals, mountains or climate of Chile. A team of researchers and students answered all the questions, replying to all participants.

Can mountains grow more? Why clouds float if water is heavier than air? Were some of the questions sent by girls that caught the attention of the team.

“This product seeks to develop basic research skills in girls, a starting point to approach to the scientific method: observe, measure, classify, pose problems and formulate hypotheses, and above all, to write them down in order to acquire the habit of externalizing and sharing them” , says Sofia Otero, journalist and director of the project.