The IAC moves forward in its commitment to equality

Some of the IAC staff. Credit: Inés Bonet (IAC)

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The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) celebrates International Women's Day by publicizing the work of the women on the staff, and making a balance sheet of the state of gender equality in the Institute.

The IAC started its activities in gender equality in 2008, when the Commission on Equality was founded, with the aim of finding the means and the actions needed for the active incorporationof the principle of effective equality between men and women and designing its first Equality Plan.

At the present time the Institute is applying its third Equality Plan, which includes 8 objectives and 27 specific measures. Improving the process of hiring personnel, incorporating the gender perspective, attract more women candidates to cientific and engineering positions, inform on the existing means to help conciliation and co-responsibility at work, and pubicize the work of the women staff at the IAC via communication channels both inside and outside the Institute, are among the objectives of this Plan, on which the present Commission of Equality is working, with the help of other departments, such as the Unit of Communication and Scientific Culture (UC3). In addition, thanks to the budget assigned to gender equality activities a training plan has been set up for all IAC staff, which covers subjects such as gender bias, the prevention of sexual harrassment, inclusive language, the integration of gender equality in management, and empowering women.

The systematic publication of the data of IAC personnel divided by gender is another objective of the above Plan, which permits the monitoring of the advances reached in  the subject of equality. At the present time the staff of the Institute numbers 433, of whom 156 (36%) are women.

The departments in which women have been historically under-represented are research and instrumentation. The data for contracted personnel on March 8th 2023 show an equal proportion among the pre-doctoral students, with some 47,2% being women, and 52.8& men. But as we move upwards in the research line the gender gap grows. Women are 38% of the temporary research staff, and only 21% of permanent researchers. Even though there is still a way to go to reach effective equality in these areas, an advance is clearly noted in the number of women researchers, going from only 37% of pre-doctoral researchers in 2017 to 47 % in 2023, and from 29% to 39% of researchers on postdoctoral contracts.

Prizes and recognition

Today, March 8th has been the occasion of prizegiving, for the Research Prizes of the the University Institute for Womens' Studies (IUEM) of the University of La Laguna, which recognized the work of two researchers at the IAC for their distinguished academic careers. The Deputy Director of the IAC, Casiana Muñoz Tuñon was awareded the prize for a long research carreer, and Giuseppina Battaglia was awarede the prize for young researchers with important results.

8M Premio
In the front row, the IUEM award winners: Giuseppina Battaglia, Inmaculada Perdomo, Casiana Muñoz and Hipólito Marrero, who collected the award on behalf of Mª José Rodrigo. Photo: Emeterio Suárez

The Act was celebrated in the Tomás y Valiente Hall of the Law Faculty of the ULL, and there were also present, Elvira Alonso, the Secretary Generyal of the University of La Laguna, Dulce Cairós, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, and Carina González, the Director of the organizing Institute.

Last Octorber, during the celebration of the Big Science Business Forum (BSB_F) 2022, the IAC was also recognized for its efforts to improve gender equality in the workplace, receiving the "Women in Big Science Recognition Award" in its three levels: 1. Advances is organizational culture, 2. Alliances for collaboration 3. Social impact, in which it gained points at levels 5/5, 4/5, and 4/5 respectively.

The future of Astrophysics

Even though scientific vocations among young girls are promoted with outreach activities and educational projects throughout the year, during February and March, around the data of the International Day of women and Girls in Science (11 February) and International Womens' Day (8 March) these efforts are augmented with talks and activities aimed at students in Infant, Primary, and Seconday Schools.

The project "Talk to Them, Women in Astronomy" is under way from February to June 2023, and celebrates its fifth consecutive edition. Its aim is to create new female reference models in Science and Technology, and create interte in these areas among the students, using the experience of women astrophysicists and engineers who explain their work, talk about their research fields, and answer questions from the students about the carreers in science or technology, about the Universe, and about the methods which are used to improve our knowledge of it. Since it was initiated in 2019 more than 7,000 students have participated in this, as well as 34 workers at the IAC and at other scientific institutions.

To answer the doubts of students and of the general public about the research carried out at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, or about the experience of being a woman working in science, yesterday there took place the sixth edition of "Chat to a Woman Astronomer", organized by the Commission for Women in Astronomyof the Spanish Astronomical Society (SEA), in which eight colleagues from the IAC took part.

As well as these two projects, a large number of women astrophysicists and engineers from the IAC take part in talks, workshops, interviews, and colloquia in a variety of schools, both in the Canaries and elsewhere, and in activities organized by other institutions , such as the travelling exhibitions "Canary Women Scientists" promoted by the Department of Education, Universities, Culture, and Sports of the Canary Government, or "AstronomAs" currently on show at the Roque de los Muchachos Visitor Centre, La Palma.

Women staff at the IAC headquarters in La Laguna. Credit: Inés Bonet


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