To celebrate an idea, evaluate its success, meet who devised it, give voice to the main stakeholders, and above all inspire young people to follow a career in engineering: these were the goals of the final seminar of the project “Engenheiras Por Um Dia”, held on May 4, at Instituto Superior Técnico. More than 400 students from 10 pilot-schools, where the project was implemented, attended the event.
The opening session was attended by Virgínia Ferreira, president of the Portuguese Association of Women’s Studies (APEM) , Arlindo Oliveira, president of Instituto Superior Técnico and Maria Manuel Leitão Marques, Minister of the Presidency and Administrative Modernisation.
According to professor Arlindo Oliveira “all universities should combat gender stereotypes”, therefore “we must encourage more women to follow a career in science and technology, demystifying male dominance in this area”, stressed the president of Técnico. “We will be here to support you in this journey and to make a fairer and more egalitarian Portuguese society”, said professor Arlindo Oliveira.
Also the Minister of the Presidency and Administrative Modernisation gave an enthusiastic speech. “I have no doubt that engineering and technology jobs will grow and will have a profound impact in the future. And if that is so, why there are still so few women working in these areas?”, she questioned. “Perhaps because they don’t know how attractive these areas can be”, she then answered. This project was created to raise awareness on young female students, “so that you know the importance of these areas, to make informed choices, for a much more equal society”.
Teresa Alvarez, from the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (CIG), explained the scope of the project, its methodologies and evolution throughout the year. According to CIG representative, “equality is like a building to which we must remain vigilant so that it won’t collapse”.
A round table brought together engineer Ana Teresa Freitas, professor at Técnico and CEO of HeartGenetics, Clara Celestino, HR Manager at Microsoft, Cristina Fonseca, co-founder of Talkdesk and Virgínia Ferreira from APEM, who shared their experiences and their passion for engineering.
According to Cristina Fonseca “I do not believe there are any biological differences that impact these choices. I think that what makes us take this option is what we believe and what we are told throughout our lives”. Ana Teresa Freitas shared “I choose to follow engineering when I was ten years old because I heard that the best way to predict the future is to create it, and I wanted it for myself”. Clara Celestino, who work with several engineers on a daily basis, said “studying engineering means that you will develop and acquire a lot of skills that will give you competitive advantage when you enter the labour market”.
“Our main problem is that we undervalue ourselves and we think that we can’t do this. We have already paved the way so many times; bringing more women to engineering will be the next one”, said Madalena Vinha, a student from one of the ten participating schools. According to Bianca Cordunean, another student, “I think this was a very innovative project that showed us that we are free to choose a subject and an university”.