Women, Science and Technology
in Latin America: Diagnoses and Strategies
Bariloche, Argentina, 2123 October 1998
I. Gender equity in professional development
II. Education for science and technology
III. Use of new technologies to strengthen
women's social position
IV. Relationship between science, technology
and the productive sectors
V. Developments in
VI. Policies and Programs at regional and
The Regional Forum was co-organized by
UNESCO and the Secretary of Science and Technology of the Ministry of Culture and
Education through the Argentine Technological Fund (FONTAR) .
Approximately 250 participants from 17
Latin American and Caribbean countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Cuba, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru,
Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela) met at the Forum. They were joined by representatives
of international organizations (United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP)) and regional ones (Organization of American States
(OAS), OREALC-UNESCO, Economic Commission for Latin American Countries (ECLAC),
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
UNESCO was represented by Albert Sasson,
delegate of the Director-General, Renee Clair, Coordinator of the Women's Programme, and
Francisco José Lacayo Parajón, Director of the UNESCO office in URUGUAY (ORCYT). The
Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS) was represented by its
Vice-President , Dr Ana María Cetto. The Argentine Government was represented by Juan
Carlos Bello, Secretary of Science and Technology, Mario Mariscotti, President of the
Executive Board of the National Agency of Scientific and Technological Promotion, and
Marta Borda, General Director of FONTAR and General Coordinator of the Forum, among other
officials. Gloria Bonder was responsible for the scientific coordination of the Forum.
Among the other participants were
governmental officials, policy-makers, legislators, researchers, professors,
communicators, entrepreneurs working in academic institutions and in governmental and
private institutions and in NGOs. Many of them were members of regional and international
networks in science and technology (S&T).
The Forum was organized under the auspices
of the OAS, the Organization of Ibero-American States on Education, Science and Culture
(OEI) and UNIFEM. It was declared of regional interest by the OAS, of national interest by
the Argentine Government, of parliamentary interest by the Argentine National Congress and
of provincial interest by the Legislature of the Province of Rio Negro. The Forum was
organized with the valuable support of the Argentine national and regional Scientific
Committees and that of TWOWS through its Vice-President.
Debate developed around seven central areas
of particular relevance to Latin America. Renowned specialists, whose attendance at the
Forum respected a regional and sectoral equilibrium, addressed these issues. From each
panel came forth a series of recommendations and proposals which were the object of
consensus at the end of the meeting and represent the basis of the present document.
The titles of the
Women's professional paths in S&T fields
Educating women on S&T: do we need a new pedagogy?
Women and new information and communication technologies
in a globalized context
Technological innovation: in what direction? Bridges
between entrepreneurs and researchers
Progress in biotechnology: the ethical frontiers
Womens relationship with scientific and technologic
transformations: a different viewpoint?
Promotion-policies and programmes.
It is worth mentioning the Campaign,
Young women as protagonists of 21st century science and technology,
which was a complementary activity of the Forum. Thanks to the cooperation of the business
sector and universities, it gathered 30 women from different Argentine provinces and a
number of Latin American countries. Its general objectives were to analyse specific issues
affecting young women as students and future professionals in S&T, and to inform them
about the progress made with regard to women's rights and participation to optimize their
performance in the public and private spheres. Lastly, an inter-generational dialogue was
held with adult Latin American scientists to favor an exchange, generate cooperation
between both groups and promote the integration of young womens perspectives in the
To establish diagnoses, priorities and strategies at the
regional level to strengthen women's participation in S&T development;
To establish the basis for a Regional Plan of Action to
sensitize and mobilize governments, scientific communities and society in general to
implement strategies and proposals to ensure gender equity in S&T;
To elaborate conclusions and recommendations for the
World Conference on Science for the 21st Century: a new commitment (UNESCO,
Budapest, June 1999).
The accelerated S&T progress
characteristic of the 20th century is now facing a crucial challenge: to
contribute to sustainable, equitable and integral human development based on equal gender
opportunities, recognition of cultural and ethnic diversity, environmental protection,
reinforcement of democracy and the satisfaction of national and regional growth needs.
However, this goal is still far from being attained. It is necessary to undertake a
collective effort to raise awareness and articulate the different community sectors so
that S&T can develop its full potential by assuming a deep commitment to the welfare
It is crucial to recognize that, as the
century winds up, the world scenario is rather distressing. The globalization of the
economy and communication goes hand in hand with growing inequities in the distribution of
goods and resources. There is an increased segmentation and exclusion of certain
countries, as well as of population sectors, a progressive environmental degradation,
persistent armed conflicts and an outgrowth of different sorts of fundamentalism.
In this context, it is important to bear in
mind that Latin America is one of the most inequitable regions with regard to resource
distribution. At the same time, it confronts substantial obstacles to reaching the
desirable growth and distribution levels, bridging historical gaps and preventing new and
alarming disparities. Its S&T development is not homogeneous; the pace and scope of
S&T development differs contingent upon a specific countrys economic, cultural
and political factors. This situation requires active capacity-building policies and
greater cooperation and interchange among countries to build a creative and autonomous
scientifictechnological community able to make significant achievements for the
During the debate on the future of S&T,
it became clear that these social practices are not neutral, but rather
influenced by values and power issues; thus, they can contribute only to an unfair social
order. It is also important to question certain disciplinary pigeonholes and divisions
based on stereotypes, such as the one on soft and hard sciences,
which have hindered interchange and the development of broader and more sensitive
approaches to grasping the complexity of phenomena.
It is necessary to guarantee that policies
on S&T are consolidated as long-term state policies generated by consensus, autonomous
of clientelistic governmental interests and relatively independent of free market demands.
This requires the further allocation of resources, the implementation of more democratic
and efficient management models, and the articulation of S&T policies with educational
policies at all levels, especially in higher education.
In this overall context and beyond country
differences, the situation of women involved in S&T in the region has common traits.
Although their participation has increased, they are still concentrated in certain areas
and underrepresented in others. They are facing specific obstacles and difficulties in
their professional lives that have as much to do with intrinsic institutional factors
associated to models and practices as with the socio-cultural conditioning that limits
their full development. One of the most noticeable is the persistent delegation of the
traditional roles of housekeepers and family caretakers. As a result, situations of labor
and salary discrimination persist. This becomes evident in the access of women to low
hierarchical posts and their infrequent presence at decision-making levels.
This is why the adoption of measures to
promote women's incorporation into this field, the empowerment of those already involved
in it and the raising of awareness of their situation as a group cannot be delayed. This
is justified by principles of legitimate social equity, as well as by the urgent need to
integrate womens perspectives, knowledge and attitudes to the construction of
inclusive S&T paradigms enriched by diversity and committed to achieving real social
In line with this, it
is regarded as being indispensable to:
Affirm that the freedom of thought of the
scientific community should not collide with its social responsibility, affirming its
right to influence decisions regarding priorities, resources and management of national
Uphold that all sectors of society have
the right to intervene in setting priorities and establishing ethical frameworks for a
S&T development respectful of human dignity and world bio-safety.
Encourage the creation of multi-, inter-
and transdisciplinary approaches to be able to comprehend human issues in all their
Reclaim, value and protect traditional
knowledge and practices of the so-called minorities (women, indigenous and rural
communities, etc.) of Latin America and the Caribbean, denouncing illegitimate
appropriation of such knowledge.
Implement all necessary measures to
guarantee equal gender opportunities in the different S&T settings.
Reject and condemn technological
reproduction of human beings that could threaten human dignity, bio-safety or the
integrity of the individuals involved or generated through these processes.
Affirm that women's contribution in the
S&T fields is essential to achieve a sustainable and egalitarian human development and
to contribute to world peace. This is why the Forum Women, Science and Technology in Latin
America and the Caribbean demands that national, regional and international organizations
commit to implement its recommendations.
equity in professional development
Promote the development of policies,
including positive action measures, to foster equitable participation of women in all
areas and levels related to S&T assuring their full professional development.
a) graduate and post-graduate studies (with no age limit)
b) professional re-incorporation (women over 35 years old)
c) research projects, particularly in traditionally
a) hierarchic posts in S&T institutions;
b) congresses, scientific events, evaluation committees,
editorial councils of specialized publications, etc.
Carrying out studies on the working environment, the
organization of scientific work and the approach of both genders to the production of
knowledge with a view to promoting women-friendly working climates.
Encouraging S&T institutions to offer child-care
Stimulating the creation of networks, bulletins
(electronic and printed) and working teams of scientific women at national and regional
levels, apart from supporting the ones already functioning.
Education for science and technology
Promote quality S&T education (formal
and non-formal) that would integrate gender perspective and reflect the reality and needs
of Latin American societies. This should be made possible through curricular and
methodological reforms, teacher training programs, research projects and assessment
Encourage flexible and innovative
educational practices to articulate S&T discoveries with daily life and community
issues, promoting self-esteem and pleasure in dealing with science, avoiding stereotypes
and encouraging an active and creative attitude towards S&T.
Ensuring girls and women access to, and attendance at,
all levels and areas of the educational system, particularly in the fields of S&T.
Implementing teacher-training programs to facilitate
permanent updating on S&T and to raise awareness on gender equity.
Carrying out activities for students and teachers to
promote the use of new information and communication technologies, including the
development of skills to critically analyse its contents, values and uses.
Sensitizing and training vocational counselors on the
importance of motivating girls and young women to study S&T.
Monitoring didactic material and educational processes to
determine the presence of discriminatory stereotypes.
Carrying out research and proposing actions based on
research findings regarding:
a) the concepts and practices in relation to S&T
transmitted by educational institutions and their gender bias;
b) the direct and indirect mechanisms of gender
discrimination in S&T courses;
c) knowledge, values and motivations of women in the field
Providing national and regional grants and other
incentives to young women to undertake graduate studies in areas of S&T in which women
are in the minority.
Implementing tutorial programs for young women guided by
Fostering the articulation of the education sector with
S&T organisms and the productive sector.
Designing and implementing virtual
distance-learning programs at regional and national levels on issues of special concern to
Carrying out campaigns aimed at the educational community
to promote a new image of S&T spurring women's interest.
Use of new technologies to strengthen women's social position
Facilitate the access of women from
all social sectors to the new information and communication technologies, within a
framework of respect for cultural diversity and priority local and regional needs.
Encourage the use of the Spanish language to disseminate information.
Creating databases of research projects and education,
training and working possibilities for women.
Designing and maintaining electronic networks for
interchange and cooperation among women.
Sensitizing mass media to:
a) disseminate new S&T discoveries and developments
taking into consideration their social and ethical dimensions;
b) sensitize society on the importance of participating in
ethic and strategic decision- making processes in the field of S&T;
c) communicate the discoveries and achievements of women
d) prevent the dissemination of sexist images and messages.
Relationship between science, technology and the productive sectors
Facilitate connections among female
researchers, businesswomen, political leaders and representatives of non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and grass-roots organizations to elaborate common strategies for
improving production through the utilization of S&T knowledge, with a view to
attending to national and regional development needs and improving womens life
Developing awareness and training activities on gender
Creating databases of projects and opportunities for
women through Internet.
Facilitating the access of women micro-entrepreneurs to
financial assistance, adopting mechanisms such as quotas and the
simplification of procedures and requirements.
Offering training courses to businesswomen on new
technologies, leadership, management and other issues that would empower them and
stimulate their capacity to innovate.
Establishing agreements between women-managed companies
and research and development centers.
Fostering and supporting the organization and
association of businesswomen.
Stimulating business associations to incorporate the
gender perspective into their policies.
Developments in biotechnology
Disseminating biotechnological development spurring
debate in different sectors of society, with special consideration for its impact on the
lives of women and men.
Promoting local, regional and international actions to
identify natural resources, their genomic conservation and legal protection.
Supporting the unpatentable character of genomic
diversity as a universal value.
Promoting awareness of the value of microbial genetic
resources, animals and plants of the region and promoting local, regional and
international actions aimed at their identification, conservation and protection.
Policies and Programs at regional and national levels
Stimulate Latin American States to
implement policies on S&T that would contribute to sustainable social and economic
development within a framework of pluralism, social justice, recognition of biodiversity
Promote the commitment of all Latin
American and Caribbean governments and of regional and international organizations to
maintstream the gender perspective in all policies and programs on S&T.
Monitor the dynamics of S&T in Latin
America and the Caribbean to evaluate the achievement of the above objectives.
Spurring debate and generating consensus to mainstream
gender perspective in all programs and projects in S&T so as to ensure quality,
cultural pertinence and social relevance of policies.
Stimulating the adoption of measures to regulate ethical
aspects of production and application of S&T knowledge, such as laws, ethical
professional codes, etc.
Elaborating methodological criteria to produce indicators
and statistical information that is comparable among countries, disaggregated by sex and
Stimulating the establishment of horizontal cooperation
agreements and networks between S&T organizations, universities, non-governmental
entrepreneurial organizations of the different countries to:
a) strengthen Latin American scientific communities,
placing special attention on equal participation of women in all spheres and decision
b) promote de production of comparative studies and
publications addressing women's priorities in the region;
c) develop training programs and activities,
apprenticeships and other forms of interchange between scientific women and young students
d) stimulate the creation of networks of scientific women
in the context of sub-regional or regional integration agreements;
e) create a database with information on scientific women
of Latin America and the Caribbean and disseminate it through all available means.
Committing national governments to design long-term
policies on S&T that would mainstream the equal gender perspective, ensuring its
financial and technical sustainability.
Designing and implementing systems to evaluate policies,
programs and projects on S&T, articulating social relevance and cultural pertinence
with gender equity.
Ensuring that national systems of S&T information
elaborate indicators and collect relevant data on the different levels of participation of
men and women.
Stimulating S&T institutions (i.e. ranking, awards,
etc.) to ensure equitable presence of women in all areas and at all decision-making levels
and to incorporate gender equity in their plans and projects.
Supporting women's participation in training programs on
planning and policy management in S&T.
Ensuring equal gender participation in evaluation
committees, scientific commissions and other decision-making processes. Creating and
updating data banks of Latin American women researchers to facilitate their participation
in such instances.
Carrying out campaigns and other sensitization activities
using different means (including mass media) directed to all sectors of the society to:
a) favor increased public visibility of women scientists;
b) support equal rights and duties between men and women in
the public and private arenas (work, politics, child-rearing, housework, etc.);
c) promote increased awareness of the value of natural
resources of the region.
Urging scientific and entrepreneurial
societies to promote equal opportunities for male and female members.