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Men continue to lead research in Epidemiology and Public Health

Study which the UA participates in notes that 72.6% of management positions are filled by men at the Biomedical Research Networking Centres Consortium

 

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Maria Teresa Ruiz Cantero is involved in the study by the University of Alicante Research Group of Public Health

 

Alicante. Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Recently more than 300 personalities, including Nobel Medicine Prize Elizabeth Blackburn 2009 and mountaineer Edurne Pasaban, supported the manifesto “Change the Numbers, promoted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and L 'Oréal FoundationThe manifesto aims to "give visibility to the work of Spanish women scientists" because less than 20% of strategic positions in laboratories, universities and research centres are being held by women, as stated in the 2015 Women Researchers Report of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). 

This situation occurs in each area as confirmed in  new research where Professor Maria Teresa Ruiz Cantero, from the University of Alicante Research Group in Public Health is involved and shows a clear underrepresentation of women in the field of research in epidemiology and public health in our country.

The results provide evidence that leaders in health research are males. In particular, none of the nine existing Biomedical Research Networking Centres in Spain in Biomedical Research (CIBER) — created to promote research excellence in biomedical and health sciences — has a woman as the scientific director and, moreover, 72.6% of the members of their management bodies are men.

"This sexist situation threatens the existence of innovative products and services from a gender perspective that respond to needs and demands of the whole society. More women are needed in research to incorporate this perspective, as stated in a study on gender inequalities research in public health and epidemiology in Spain (Desigualdades de género en la investigación en salud pública y epidemiología en España).

"The gender gap that we identified in the field of research in epidemiology and public health is like seeing the tip of the iceberg of a larger problem: that of gender inequality in science. In Spain and in Europe our science is sexist because we live in sexist societies, the UA Professor insisted.

In this regard, Maria Teresa Ruiz Cantero said that, "the reasons why there are fewer women than men working in the field of science (both young researchers and professors) are multiple and intertwined, even when more women than men are graduating and doing their PhDs. There is only one word to summarise these reasons: androcentrism, the androcentrism of science".

Moreover, the study revealed that although the research projects of the Strategic Health Action led by women have increased slightly between 2007 and 2013, they do not reach 50% among those requested with the exception of those in the Public Health Commission. The gender gap is even greater in projects financed. Projects led by men are more likely to obtain financing, reaching 29% those involving  the public health area.

Relevant laws and regulations have been drafted in Spain that contribute to gender equality in science, the very law of equality, the law of science, the Spanish University Act, all of them mention the issue of gender equality in one way or the other. "Putting into practice their principles is a different matter that requires a true egalitarian attitude and behaviour on the part of those responsible for the institutions involved in research and their male colleagues. There is a vehicle for this, and it is the development of Equality Plans in both public and private institutions, which so far is worthless and a shame in many centres. We just do not believe that diversity contributes to creativity and innovation”, Ruiz Cantero said.  

In the public-private sphere, work and reproductive life balance is also highly relevant to gender equality in science. According to the UA professor, "it is not because law says this but because it contributes to the quality of life and family members, and if men would contribute on an equal basis to domestic and care tasks, women could devote more time to their career as researchers. In countries like Sweden it is already a value, which was preceded by a positive actions with regulations to reach this objective”. 

 

Methodology

The study, published in the journal Gaceta Sanitaria, analyses leadership positions from 2007 to 2014 at the networked centres in Biomedical Research (CIBER), especially in the subject area of epidemiology and public health (CIBERESP); in scientific societies of Public Health (SESPAS) and Epidemiology (SEE); and projects requested and funded, and research funded from calls for Strategic Action in Health (AES).

The study have been carried out by women researchers from the University of Alicante, the Andalusian School of Public Health and the Granada Bio-Health Research Institute, the Epidemiology and Public Health Research Centre, the Public Health Agency of Barcelona, Pompeu Fabra University, Biomedical Research Institute Sant Pau, and CSIC.  

 

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