AAAS Lecture Series on Women in Science and Engineering

San Jose, Costa Rica - August 27-31 2002


Josefina Coloma, UC Berkeley
Araceli Espinosa, UCLA
Nora Sabelli, SRI International
AAAS Coordinator: Marina Ratchford
Host Organization: Costa Ricašs Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICIT)

Activities included:

The activities in Costa Rica were the first in a series of three events to take place in Latin America as part of the AAAS project Lecture Series on Women in Science and Engineering. The main event in Costa Rica was the First Multidisciplinary Forum on Women in Science. In preparation for the forum, the Costa Rican host CONICIT organized numerous activities including a call for testimonies by local women scientists (39 testimonies received), an interactive website and a TV show. In addition to Costa Rica and US, the forum had participation of women scientists from other Central American and Caribbean countries, including Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Jamaica. Costa Rica is currently going through an influential feminist movement, much like the U.S. 20 years ago. This was the first time in Costa Rica that women’s testimonies were the focus of an event.

Participation of women in science is improving, but recognition and prestige (awards, media coverage, membership in Boards, etc.) are still the domain of men. Therefore, it was extremely important to provide visibility to women scientists and their contributions. As in the rest of the world, women in Costa Rica are majority as university students, but starting at the PhD level, women are less represented in research positions (assistants, researchers, professor).

The three US participants were grateful for being given the opportunity to think back and reflect about their personal stories in becoming scientists. Their recommendations included:

For future panels:

  • invite more students, women (and men) facing study and career decisions
  • invite more journalists
  • allow more time for discussion
  • videotape sessions and disseminate to schools
  • organize separate visits by discipline, and include more local women scientists
  • organize visits to schools
  • allow time for working meetings with some of the contacts made to plan possible collaboration
For follow-up to this project (in Costa Rica and elsewhere):
  • ensure continuity of this project
  • provide mini grants ($1-2K) for follow-up travel and project planning with contacts made throughout visit
  • provide access to formal and informal exchange and support networks and peer training
  • facilitate exchanges among women scientists and women organizations
  • include presentations and findings in educational materials and distribute widely
To increase participation of women in science:
  • promote independence of women from young age
  • develop their resilience to face and overcome difficulties in life
  • organize activities that encourage contact with nature
  • school curricula must promote interest in reading and arts
  • promote awareness of women’s rights
  • raise and educate children so they believe that it is normal that their mothers work
  • increase number of women in Award committees



© 2002 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved