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Women in STEM Author Interview: Elisa Alòs

Posted on: January 30, 2023

What advice do you have for women interested in Mathematics?

Research in mathematics is challenging but rewarding. You are always thinking about solving problems, and discussing these problems with colleagues. Moreover, mathematics has great value in applications, which can lead you to work in contact with people from industry, and this is very enriching. On the other hand, teaching is also a deeply rewarding task. It gives you the opportunity of having a positive impact on the lives and careers of new generations, and this is priceless. And lastly (but not least), mathematics is something you can do everywhere. This means you can do your research remotely from home, and this helps the conciliation of work with a family life (and I feel this is very important, independently of being a man or a woman)!

What inspires you about the STEM field?

Technology, science, and mathematics have been the root of the well-being and prosperity of our societies. Nowadays, we are very used to these advances and sometimes we do not give science and technology the value they deserve.

What was your motivating factor to explore the STEM field?

My parents had a lot of interest in culture, and in particular science and technology. Our home was full of books about science, discoveries, machines, etc., and we used to watch scientific television programs. So, I really think that had an early and deep impact.

How many women do you currently collaborate with in the STEM field?  

In my area, 90% of researchers are men. As a logical consequence, I have worked with only a few women (according to my Google Scholar profile, I have co-authored research papers with 6 women and more than 30 men).

How can women support one another in the STEM field?

The first thing you can do is to really believe women can be as good as men. This sounds trivial, but it is not. In our minds, when we think of the word 'researcher', we imagine a man. As a consequence, it takes more time for us to get convinced by a woman when, for example, she gives a scientific talk.  Even more, women do not believe in themselves. In particular, I can share with you the following anecdote: Even after getting a PhD, I never thought of applying for a position in a university... because I always believed this was for 'smart' people. It was my husband who convinced me to apply!!! 

What needs to happen in the STEM field to attract more women? 

As I said before, the first is to really convince themselves that women (and not only some exceptional women) are as good as men. The second is to create a more 'family friendly’ atmosphere. And I feel this change is really happening. Both men and women are now giving more value to personal and family life, and are less interested in, for example, long late meetings. Remote working can help a lot, too. I recognize that not everything can be done from home, but around 80% of my job can, for example. 

What motivates you to learn? 

Learning is always a great pleasure, especially if you have the opportunity of learning from leading experts in their area.