ffort, perseverance, passion, hope, optimism and gratitude are just some of the words that describe the 11 winners of the first WONNOW Awards: Carlota, Marta, Carmen, Ana, Amaia, Helena, Marina, Patricia, Sara, Naomi and Paula. All of them have studied a technology degree, which, as defined by Marina Alonso (Polytechnic University of Madrid), “are long degrees that need a great effort”. As acknowledged by Helena Yelmo (Escola Universitària Salesiana de Sarrià) “attending a technology degree is not an easy way, since you have to dedicate many hours and effort to obtain the results you deserve”.
One of the main difficulties experienced by Carlota Armillas (University of Cádiz) during her degree years has been “to learn how to organize time, to be able to follow all the subjects in the best possible way”. As for Patricia Andolz (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), she emphasizes that, in her case, studying the Degree in Computer Engineering meant “starting from scratch, while in other degrees, such as Humanities’ or those related to the field of Health, one already has a basis, acquired in compulsory subjects throughout the student’s life”. For Amaia de Pablo (Universidad del País Vasco), the hardest thing was to decide what to study. She knew that she wanted to take a technology degree, but it was difficult for her to make the choice, since she did not know exactly what job she could have after studying. “I would have liked to have more information”, she explains.
OPPORTUNITY TO GROW PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONALLY
To reward talent and promote diversity, and the presence of women like them in the field of technology and science, CaixaBank and Microsoft have created the WONNOW Awards, a prize to recognize female excellence in technology university degrees. As emphasized by Sara Ruiz (University of Cantabria), “the fact that two entities like CaixaBank and Microsoft value, recognize and reward the efforts of the last four years is a prize that we can all feel proud of”. Marta García (University of Cádiz) adds that this award “represents that the effort made during these years has been recognized and worthwhile”.
Thanks to this prize, Carlota, a double degree student in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design and Product Development, has been awarded with 10,000 euros. As she explains, this grant “is a great help to study the master I like, Engineering for Sustainable Development in Cambridge. In addition, it makes me feel very happy, since I feel that all the work of these five years of career is rewarded”. On the other hand, Marta, Carmen, Ana, Amaia, Helena, Marina, Patricia, Sara, Naomi and Paula have access to a scholarship to work at CaixaBank. They are offered a 6-month internship contract, with the possibility of joining the entity when this term ends. In addition, they will also benefit from a mentoring program given by Microsoft, which offers advice on aspects related to the development of their professional career in the technological industry. For Paula Calderón (Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir), “having won this scholarship is an opportunity to learn and grow both personally and professionally”. Naomi Noor (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) wants to take full advantage of the opportunity offered by the WONNOW Awards to “learn a lot from CaixaBank and Microsoft”, and is convinced that “in the technology field, just like many men are already working, many women are also needed. All together we can go much further than separately”. Helena highlights the opportunity that offers “to be able to develop at a professional level in technology-leading projects”. They are the winners among the 260 students from 59 Spanish universities that have participated in this first edition of the WONNOW Awards.
According to a UNESCO report, only 35% of students enrolled in degrees linked to STEM are women, representing 28% of researchers around the world. In Spain, according to data from the Sociedad de Mujeres Ingenieras (Engineer Women Society), more than 20% of engineering graduates are women but only 11% are active. The percentage of university students enrolled in computer engineering is down to 12%, and the proportion of active men in this sector is three times higher than women.
This situation contrasts with the high demand for new professional profiles with adequate capacities in STEM. The European Commission has warned that 90% of all jobs already require digital skills and that it is likely that there will be 500,000 jobs in Europe in two years that cannot be covered due to lack of adequate training of the candidates.
The parity of men and women in the digital industry would increase the GDP of the European Union by about 9,000 million euros per year, but it will not be possible if the interest of women and young people by the STEM studies is not encouraged. They provide the skills necessary to compete in the digital era.
“To this day, the presence of women in certain areas is still very low. But that is why we are here, in order to change it. To prove that if CaixaBank and Microsoft support us, women can have full freedom to choose our studies, without feeling influenced, and to reach the highest goals”, says Sara. Despite the difficulties experienced during their university degree years and the time they spent, none of them regretted their decision and encourage other girls to follow their steps. As Ana Sancho points out (University of Cádiz), “the word Engineering sometimes scares, but if you really want to devote yourself to this and you like technology, why can’t you? It is all about being enthusiastic”. In order to encourage the presence of young women in this type of career, Carmen Torres (Universidad de Jaén) proposes that “we are told since little about women scientists and promote talks at school to discuss their work”. For her, this is a good initiative to start to know this world. By her side, Carlota comments that “it is very important to visualize the image of women dedicated to engineering so that women learn that this option can also be possible and interesting for them”.
“We have the stereotype that people who work in this area are always men, when it really is not the case”, Carmen adds. In this aspect, Helena also agrees, which indicates that more and more girls who decide to study degrees in Engineering leave behind the stereotype of “degrees for men”. The winners of the WONNOW Awards first edition encourage women to pursue their professional dreams, as they have done.