“The glass ceiling”, that set of obstacles that prevents women from reaching top positions, “has been broken. Even if there is still something to be done, we have some great signs: the Polytechnic of Milan, for example, has its first female rector” in 160 years of history of the university, Donatella Sciuto, “just as at the Milan Bicocca university we have another rector, Giovanna Iannantuoni, after Maria Cristina Messa” who directed the same university from 2013 to 2019. Iannantuoni ” she is also at the helm of the Conference of Italian Rectors Crui. So today there are two rectors in Milan”, 11 in Italy. “It’s not much and it’s not little”, reasons Diana Bracco, president of the Bracco Foundation, today on the sidelines of ‘Mind the Stem gap – Together’, a day of discussion at the Polytechnic University of Milan between researchers and new generations, students of high school. Initiative accompanied by an exhibition-manifesto created by the Bracco Foundation with 150 high school students (Nanni Valentini artistic high school in Monza, F. Viganò technical institute in Merate, Itsos Albe Steiner in Milan and Einstein institute in Vimercate).
Today’s theme: equal access to STEM sectors (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Expanding it to as many people as possible must also be among the Government’s priorities for Bracco. The occasion to talk about it is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (which was celebrated yesterday, 11 February). The entrepreneur, who has broken through glass ceilings in her career, returns to the example of women at the top of universities: “They are characters of great depth and very advanced from a scientific point of view, who also have the ability to organize and quality to push the structures towards the objectives. One of these is to equalize men and women. We are convinced that the inclusion of women can increase science and therefore the country’s GDP”, he highlights to Adnkronos Salute. Bracco’s message for girls who want to make their way in science? “I tell them not to be afraid. To enter these fields without fear, even if high school preparation is not always the best for dealing with certain topics. Women also have so many abilities. An intelligent woman can undoubtedly make her way.”
An invitation to have courage and determination, that of the entrepreneur, who underlines the importance of common action to broaden access to STEM, for everyone and in particular for women. Mission that must involve “families, schools, society, businesses”. And it is “one of the great issues that is posed to the Government – concludes Bracco – Because the Government says that we must be more productive, and that is right. But to raise productivity we must have more people working. Where? In disciplines that are connected to a greater return to GDP, therefore in Stem. As you can see, it is a virtuous circle that must be promoted”.
DATA AND TESTIMONIALS – But what is the situation today? Despite some positive signs, the disparity between women and men in science is still a critical issue in terms of accessibility, recognition and presence in top positions, experts highlight. The data suggests it: statistically, at a national level, women make up, for example, only 26.6% of graduates in Engineering (source 2023 Report of the National Council of Engineers) and 40.9% of graduates in Computer Science and ICT technologies (source Almalaurea).
“It must be understood that only with different ideas can we give added value to scientific discoveries. This also applies to girls, who must feel free to choose. Often it is almost more of a conflict with the older generations. Maybe sometimes it is the family which may not be so favorable to this type of path. I was lucky enough not to have any problems in mine. I chose electronic engineering, I studied and did research in the field of electronics, an area where women are totally underrepresented”, explained the rector of the Polytechnic of Milan to the young people present at the university today on the occasion of ‘Mind the Stem gap – Together’.
“I have almost always been the only woman in my research sector. Almost in the world – underlined Sciuto – And therefore I know very well that it is not easy, but I also know that we can make a contribution and make others understand that we have the same value and the same ability to do. We must evaluate with knowledge and a critical spirit what our aptitudes and interests may be”, is the message launched by the rector. “How important is it to have people who have different characteristics, who are not homologated to the single heterosexual white man who is the representative standard of the engineer? Precisely because this is no longer the case and must not be this way, the value of the diversity of contributions must be understood” that can make science grow. “This day was marked by dialogue. Dialogue in opposition to repression and closure – the rector wanted to reiterate – What impact can studying scientific disciplines have? I strongly believe in the strength of words and symbols, in the models that society can provide to the younger generations”.
Today, he continued, “we are here to reiterate that school is a space for growth and culture, just as the university is. Our doors are open”. And among the “positive models” the rector of the Polytechnic cites “researchers”. Like Margherita Maiuri, associate professor of Experimental Physics; Paola Occhetta, industrial bioengineering researcher and Gianvito Vilè, associate professor in chemical plants who shared their stories with the students who were guests today at the Polytechnic. All three had experiences abroad and returned to Milan, all three dreamed big and managed to achieve their goals, with paths full of difficulties and rewards.