Empowering Latina scientists

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Science  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6429, pp. 825-826
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw6004

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  • RE: The role of sorority in building collective science
    • Marilia Palumbo Gaiarsa, Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Riverside
    • Other Contributors:
      • Esther Sebastián-González, Postdoctoral fellow, Universidad Miguel Hernández
      • Sara Ribeiro Mortara, Postdoctoral fellow, Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro
      • Ayana B. Martins
      • Kate Maia, Universidade de São Paulo
      • Flavia Maria x Flavia Maria Darcie Marquitti, Postdoctoral fellow, Universidade Estadual de Campinas
      • Paula Lemos-Costa, Postdoctoral fellow, University of Chicago
      • Camila Castanho, Professor, Universidade Federal de São Paulo – UNIFESP
      • Irina Birskis-Barros, Phd student, UC Merced
      • Julia Astegiano, Assistant researcher, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, CONICET
      • Ana Paula A. Assis, Postdoctoral fellow, Universidade de São Paulo
      • Cecilia Siliansky de Andreazzi, Researcher, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz
      • Laura Alencar, Postdoctoral fellow, Universidade de São Paulo

    A student lines up to speak with a renowned (male) professor at a conference. As she waits, she overhears enthusiastic suggestions given to her colleague about approaches to use and questions to address with his dataset. Excitingly, she asks for suggestions about her dataset but instead receives a curt response on how to do science.

    Stories like this are a common experience for women in STEM, illustrating obstacles that underrepresented groups (UR) consistently overcome. We are often met with condescending behavior, if not flat discouragement. As academia carries the socio-economic values of a patriarchal capitalist society, promoting individualism and competition, it hampers the development of a collective and egalitarian scientific system. For URs, who face additional barriers, it can serve to exclude.

    Contrastingly, Yang et al. (2019) (1) highlight the importance of relying on other women to build solid careers. These findings strongly resonated with our sorority: we are predominantly Latina female scientists that support one another through thick and thin. For the past 10 years we have collaborated, celebrated successes, shared insecurities and uncertainties. Promoting collective behavior with other URs provides a constructive environment. Such minority-specific strategies are essential to overcoming underrepresentation.

    We learned from our collaborative experience the importance of keeping friends close, especially women and other URs that you l...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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