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» News » Corporate news » Lydia Ugena: “In my opinion, information is the key to encouraging women and girls to pursue a career in science”.

Lydia Ugena: “In my opinion, information is the key to encouraging women and girls to pursue a career in science”.

We spoke to Lydia Ugena, R&D Specialist in Tradecorp’s Research & Development Department.

To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which takes place on February 11 , we asked her about the role of women and girls in science and how the situation has changed over the years. These were her answers.


1.- Can you briefly describe the line of work you are involved in at your company? 

I work in the Research and Development Department at Tradecorp International as a research specialist. 

I am mainly involved in research into new products, focusing on their origin, characteristics and possible benefits that could bring something new to the company. I am also in charge of testing their mode of action by conducting field trials, as well as looking into new methods to collect multidisciplinary scientific information 


 2.- How would you encourage women and girls to pursue a career in science and why do you think girls don’t choose scientific and technical degrees? 

While it is true to say that the number of women in chemical sciences, which I studied, was quite high, in other technical degrees such as engineering and architecture the percentage is still much lower.  

In my opinion, information is the key to encouraging women and girls to pursue a career in science.  

In the first place, female scientific figures and role models need to be brought to the fore. It would be a good idea, for example, for female researchers and associations that fight for women’s rights in science to give talks in schools, for girls to go on trips to research centres, universities or even to companies that have research departments, so that they can see what goes on in the scientific world on a daily basis.  

One of the factors that influences women’s choice of a particular university degree is the social factor. It is important to point out that scientific and technical degrees provide numerous professional opportunities in different areas which are related to science and are just as important, such as education, scientific outreach, organisation and participation in scientific congresses, as well as in the business world. 

Unfortunately, if we were to ask a teenager the name of a leading female scientist, they would probably not know what to answer. If we were to meet someone who did, they would say one name, two at most, of two of the most famous women in the world and in Spain who have passed away: Marie Curie and Margarita Salas. Is this because there are no more women in history who have achieved significant breakthroughs in science? No. Women have made and continue to make remarkable contributions to science and technology. The key factor that could be responsible for this lack of knowledge about female scientists is a combination of stereotypes and social expectations. Stereotypes are fuelled by the lack of visibility of women in science. Girls have almost no female roles to look up to. These role models do not appear in social networks or in the media.  Women appearing in the news as scientific experts would help to dispel these stereotypes. Yet even today, they are few and far between.   


 3.- How has the nature of your profession changed since you were a student? 

Today there are lots more educational opportunities than when I started studying, both in terms of university degrees and vocational training. For example, my bachelor’s degree has turned into three different university degrees and there are now several related vocational training degrees too. I think this diversification is very important, because when you finish your degree, you have to find a job, and the positions available are more and more tailored to highly specific profiles. Therefore, if you have a wider range of opportunities to choose from, you can specialise and, in short, compete better on the job market. Even so, I believe that there is still a lack of guidance and information about what that range of options is, or about the real professional opportunities that are available.  

On the other hand, one of the most influential factors when it comes to making this type of decision is social pressure. Vocational training studies have long been undervalued, not to mention the quasi-moral obligation to continue studying for Master’s degrees and/or doctorates offered at most universities. All this minimises the opportunities for choice. Students are not given the option or enough time to reflect on what they really want to do, so many of them end up choosing what the majority do.  

Even so, I believe that the situation is changingcourses are evolving, albeit slowly, in keeping with the times.   


4.- Do you take part in any educational or social activities that encourage girls to choose STEM careers? 

 Im not currently involved in any educational or social activities in this field, but years ago I had the pleasure of taking part in the “Science Week” at both the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) organised for boys and girls. 

 In addition, I have been following the Spanish Association of Women Researchers and Technologists (AMIT) for quite some time. This organisation defends the interests and equal rights and opportunities of Spanish female researchers and technologists.   

 Thanks to this kind of organisations, the voice of women in science and the results of their work are becoming much more visible. I think they are really important to achieve full equality for women in research and technology in both the public and private sectors. 

5.- Have you come across any hurdles in your professional career because you are a woman? 

In all the years of my professional career I have not personally encountered any obstacles because I am a woman, and I hope that this will continue to be the case, but I have met many female colleagues who have experienced difficulties. Perhaps the biggest problem is for women to reach the top positions in science. Today, there are still few women leading research groups and scientific centres.  


 6.- Do you think that the female vision adds value to science? 

Of course it does, although I don’t think it adds value because it comes from a female point of view, but because it is the view of a competent, trained, highly qualified scientist, regardless of their gender. The female vision contributes exactly the same as a male vision. The important thing is that women are gradually gaining ground and their contributions are starting to be recognised. This enables women to take their rightful place in science, if their results are good, irrespective of their gender. 

This does not mean that we should not continue to vindicate the role of women in science and fight for equal rights, opportunities and recognition, given that many achievements and important scientific advances are being made by women. If they are not recognised, this will not lead to evolution, but rather to involution.  


Brief CV

    • Lydia Ugena holds a degree in Chemistry from the Complutense University of Madrid and a PhD in Experimental Biology from the Palacký University of Olomouc in Czech Republic.
    • She has six years of experience, both in the private and public sector, in the development of biostimulants working with screening assays in plants, focusing on the study of their mode of action, leading comprehensive R&D projects in this field. Moreover, during her PhD she also worked as specialist of bioassay projects, as well as in the quantification of phytohormones and secondary metabolites.
    • Moreover, she holds a Master’s degree in Forensic Analysis from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).