Boosting scientific, digital and entrepreneurship minds in girls through
brilliant women as role-models
Women are half of the world population but their representation in science, technology and leadership aspects is much lower. Therefore, society is losing half of the humanity talent and a very valuable and necessary view for progress towards an egalitarian world and the commitment to science as a solving tool for global and inclusive problems. The GEM initiative was born from this idea with the aim of awakening the interest and promoting the potential of girls in STEM and TIC disciplines. This initiative has materialized in Spain with the celebration of a GEM Summer School at the University of Jaén with the purpose of offering an immersive research experience for girls around the region to delve into real research projects lead by outstanding scientific women who acted as their mentors. We fulfill the number of participants initially established, thus involving 64 girls from 14 to 18 years old and 19 female scientist mentors in the GEM Summer School. Girls, in small groups of five as maximum, worked together under the supervision of a female scientist mentor who guided them. In this way, we managed to bring science closer to girls through leading women, with whom they worked really close during the School, while at the same time pointing out the value of women in science and the excellent investigations they currently carry out.
This first edition of the GEM Scientific School in Spain took place from the 19th to the 23rd of July 2021 in the venues of the University of Jaén. This amazing week of science and fun started with an inaugural act led by Marta Romero Ariza, as head of the GEM project in Spain, and members of the University involved in cultural, equality and research units that transmitted meaningful and motivation messages to girls and their families that also attended this open session. During their immersion in outstanding research projects, girls had the chance to visit cutting-edge equipped laboratories, computer rooms, the microscopy department of the University, several outdoor facilities (botanical garden, a research pond, etc). Furthermore, they virtually visit the National Museum of Natural Science in Madrid and enjoy an inspiring talk from Ximena Villalonga (Xsciencedesigns), a scientific jewelry designer who has developed her career in a very entrepreneurial and creative way. Social and ludic activities were also crucial to build close and strong bonds between girls. Thus, free time during meals, social dynamics or
the scientific gymkana were key to reach this purpose. In fact, some girls play a game in which they thought about skills and attitudes of a scientific woman, emerging a wide variety of them such as creativity, responsibility, intelligence and enthusiasm.
Final GEM Congress
The final GEM congress brought together all the girls participating in GEM and their families, mentors and various representatives of the University and other educational institutions. Although, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, a limited capacity of attendees to the event was established, to spread the GEM message and reach as many people as possible, the congress was recorded and broadcast live on YouTube.
During this closure ceremony of the GEM week we enjoyed a deeply stimulating conference by the researcher and scientific leader Mª Isabel Sola Gurpegui (National Center for Biotechnology) who told us about her professional career and the Spanish vaccine to fight against the COVID-
19 that is being successfully developed by the group she leads.
Girls participating in GEM were the main protagonists of this act. They surprised us with their wonderful communication skills to convey all the exciting experiences lived at GEM and the amazing projects they worked on during the week.
We trust that after the GEM Summer School, participating girls have experienced the excitement of contributing to the improvement of society through scientific research; being aware of their potential and the interesting opportunities of professional and personal development that the STEM field offers, overcoming limiting beliefs and gender stereotypes.
GEM-SPAIN in media
The GEM School has attracted the attention not only of the Culture and Outreach Unit of the University of Jaén but also of regional and national media such as: