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Tech Talks with Raffaella Ida Rumiati
The first session of Tech Talks 2021 took place on December 10 and featured Raffaella Ida Rumiati, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at SISSA (the International School for Advanced Studies) in Trieste. She talked in a live stream with students and teachers from 11 high schools from all over Italy.
Carlo Bozzoli, Head of Global Digital Solutions, kicked off the event by talking about the importance of diversity and inclusion as crucial elements within modern business models. “Countless studies highlight how companies with a diverse workforce perform better,” diversity intended not just in terms of gender but also “ethnic, social, and cultural, which are determining factors in meeting the needs of clients.”
The opening remarks were followed by a speech by Raffaella Ida Rumiati, who began by presenting data and statistics on the problem of the gender gap in the STEM field in Italy starting in school. The 2018 survey conducted by PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) on 15-year-old students reveals that Italy is second only to Colombia when it comes to the gender gap in math. This disparity in terms of the male-to-female ratio in STEM subjects is also confirmed by the data provided by Invalsi 2021: the study shows that there is a significant difference in favor of male students in the tests conducted in both primary schools and eighth grades; it is particularly marked in technical institutes and less so in high schools and vocational schools.
The most alarming piece of data, however, concerns universities. In this case, the gender gap in the so-called career path between men and women is even more evident. Despite the fact that more women enroll at universities, women professors are clearly outnumbered by men: they represent only 25% of the faculty. This difference is even more stark when we take into consideration only the STEM departments, starting from the first levels of teaching assistants and researchers, and it keeps on increasing in the positions for associate and tenured professors.
But, according to Rumiati, this gender gap isn’t a universal condition. “Several studies indicate the gender gap is considerably smaller in Scandinavian countries and, generally speaking, in countries with a higher level of emancipation for women in the economic, legal, and healthcare spheres, and it basically disappears in Iceland.” It is therefore crucial not to take this data for granted, because “our education and work trajectories are still influenced by the socio-economic context surrounding us.” We must therefore advance the cultural battle to eliminate gender stereotypes and promote the journey of women in STEM, also through economic and welfare measures. This would also have a positive impact in reducing the wage gap between men and women, since STEM careers are the best paid jobs on the market.
Watch the video from the first session of Tech Talks 2021
Listen to the Enel Radio podcast with Raffaella Ida Rumiati
Tech Talks with Filomena Floriana Ferrara
The second session of Tech Talks 2021, which took place on December 16, featured Filomena Floriana Ferrara, Corporate Social Responsibility Country Manager at IBM.
Her speech followed the introductory remarks made by Raffaele Cirullo, Head of the Digital Hub at Enel X, who talked about the journey of the company, which now operates in over 20 countries. “As Enel X, we aim to support clients in the decarbonization of their consumption. In 2040, the global production of renewable and clean energy will be four times greater than now, and we are global leaders at the forefront of this transition.”
Filomena Floriana Ferrara then began her speech by talking to all the girls and boys about her personal experience. After growing up in Taranto with a form of dyslexia that affected her reading and writing skills, she decided to cultivate her talent for math and pursue an academic journey in computer science, which she then continued in college. After graduating, Ferrara then began a brilliant career, first as a researcher at Italy’s National Research Council, then at IBM, where she worked for 27 years and registered 21 patents. “I consider myself a lucky woman,” she said, “because I was able to build my career despite the obstacles.”
She then invited students to follow their STEM vocation, telling them how computer scientists are comparable to artists. “A computer scientist uses programming languages like colors, the keyboard like paintbrushes, and the monitor like a canvas. In doing so we design the future, which consists of technologies and algorithms that improve our lives. Think about how this pandemic would have unfolded if we didn’t have the technologies we dispose of nowadays.”
STEM subjects are crucial in shaping an innovative and sustainable future. They need creative and passionate people like women, who are too often victims of prejudice, and we have to do everything we can to eradicate this. “The public and private sectors are partnering to incentivize STEM subjects in Italy. Girls need to rid themselves of the stereotypes regarding computer science, and to them I say one thing: you are capable of anything,” Ferrara said in conclusion.
Watch the video from the second session of Tech Talks 2021
Listen to the Enel Radio podcast with Filomena Floriana Ferrara