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Women, Science and Technology
in Latin America: Diagnoses and Strategies

Bariloche, Argentina, 21–23 October 1998

Final report

Forum objectives
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 biotechnology
VI. Policies and Programs at regional and national levels


CONTEXT    Back to contents

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 panels were:    Back to contents

  • 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

  • Women’s 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 women’s perspectives in the Forum.

FORUM OBJECTIVES    Back to contents

  • 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).

CONCLUSIONS    Back to contents

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 of humankind.

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 country’s 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 scientific–technological community able to make significant achievements for the whole region.

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 women’s perspectives, knowledge and attitudes to the construction of inclusive S&T paradigms enriched by diversity and committed to achieving real social integration.

In line with this, it is regarded as being indispensable to:    Back to contents

  • 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 science policy.

  • 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 diversity.

  • 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.


I. Gender equity in professional development    Back to contents

Basis for action

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.

Priority actions

  • Assigning grants and subsidies to women for:

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 masculine fields.

  • Establishing shares and other mechanisms to ensure equal women's participation in:

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 facilities.

  • 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.

II. Education for science and technology    Back to contents

Basis for Action

  • 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 measures.

  • 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.

Priority Actions

  • 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 of S&T.

  • 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 trained researchers.

  • 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 women.

  • Carrying out campaigns aimed at the educational community to promote a new image of S&T spurring women's interest.

III. Use of new technologies to strengthen women's social position    Back to contents

Basis for Action

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.

Priority Actions

  • 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 scientists;

d) prevent the dissemination of sexist images and messages.

IV. Relationship between science, technology and the productive sectors    Back to contents

Basis for Action

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 women’s life quality.

Priority Actions

  • Developing awareness and training activities on gender for businesswomen.

  • 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.

V. Developments in biotechnology    Back to contents

Basis for Action

  • Establish an ethical multi- and transdisciplinary conceptual framework ensuring that S&T knowledge contributes to the preservation of human dignity and bio-safety.

Priority Actions

  • 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.

VI. Policies and Programs at regional and national levels    Back to contents

Basis for Action

  • 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 and non-discrimination.

  • 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.

Priority Actions

Regional level   Back to contents

  • 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 easily accessible.

  • 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 levels;

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 of S&T;

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.

National level   Back to contents

  • 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.


Contacts    Back to contents
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