According to recent UN data, women still represent only 28% of graduates globally in engineering and 40% in information technology and computing. This means a significant gender gap in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) exists, with only seven years left to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals set by the 2030 Agenda.
At SERVIR-Amazonia careers are the key to improving local capacity to foster sustainable natural resource management throughout the Amazon by using satellite data and geospatial information. We pride ourselves on having and promoting greater gender parity. Out of the 60 workers from our coordinating team and allied entities in South America, the Caribbean, and North America, 61% are women and 35% are fully dedicated to the STEM areas of the program.
To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2023, we want not only to recognize these women but to inspire other girls and teenagers who dream of pursuing a career in any of these areas. So we have asked them about their own inspirations and for advice on how to become women in science. Read on to find out more!
Why did you decide to follow a career in a STEM area?
Milagros Becerra, Monitoring Coordinator at SERVIR-Amazonia
Career: Geographer with a major in Environmental Science
Work base: ACCA, Peru
As a small child, my main concern was that people, in 2050, would have no access to drinking water and that supplies of food would be limited, which I related to the loss of nature and high-value ecosystems. That made me interested in studying for a career related to rationing and the management of essential natural resources for current and future generations.
Natalia Uribe, Capacity Building Coordinator at SERVIR-Amazonia
Career: Topographic engineer, Ph.D. in Hydroinformatics
Work base: CIAT, Colombia
I always wanted to be an astronomer, but in Colombia, I could see that would be very difficult. Then, I heard about engineering and remote sensing, a science that allowed me to see and learn about our Earth’s surface through geospatial tools.
Sandra Teran, Geospatial Analyst at SERVIR-Amazonia
Career: Geographical engineer with a double MSc. in Energy Science and Policy, and GIS
Work base: EcoCiencia, Ecuador
Since I was a little girl, I was always very curious about the stones in rivers, the difference in their colors and textures, and about the colors in world maps and different maps, I studied at school. I’m sure that was my first real interest in Earth sciences.
What would you say to young women interested in pursuing a career in a STEM subject?
Silvia-Elena Castaño, Geographic Information System Specialist at SERVIR-Amazonia
Career: Systems engineering and MSc. in Spatial Data Infrastructure
Work base: CIAT, Colombia
You will never have a dull day working in science and GIS. They make a great combination and they work for the benefit of humanity. In a science environment, you will always have questions to solve, and you will always be learning.
Karis Tenneson, Environmental Mapping Lead at SERVIR-Amazonia
Career: Environmental scientist with a Ph.D. with expertise in urban planning, ecology, statistics, remote sensing, and GIS
Work base: United States of America
Go for it! A career in science, and especially a career in applied science, is exciting and can be very rewarding. It offers numerous opportunities to positively impact the world and work with some fantastic groups and communities. Remember that diversity and inclusion make for better science and a stronger STEM community.
Paula Andrea Paz, Caribbean Engagement Coordinator at SERVIR-Amazonia
Career: Topographic engineer
Work base: CIAT, Caribbean
I would tell young women to trust in their abilities and interests, it is important to have more women in this field, and to be open to receiving and providing support to other people.
Katia De Avila Fernandes, Climate Scientist at SERVIR-Amazonia
Career: Meteorologist, Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences
Work base: University of Arkansas, United States of America
I would advise young women to start by researching the various subfields of expertise, identify degrees and schools of interest and then reach out to potential mentors or a network of women scientists. This last part is essential. A career in science can be demanding and not inclusive, but many of us have gone through those steps and can be a valuable resource to young women trying to navigate their options.