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STEM: there is still work to be done on gender equality

The female population is underrepresented in many of the activities carried out at technical universities. This is also the case at the Politecnico di Milano, where women represent less than 30% of its 47,000 students and 1,400 researchers. The discrepancy is big, however, if we look closer, we can see an even greater imbalance among all engineering students, where only 1 in 4 is female.

If we focus in further still, the figure falls to 20% in the case of some courses such as Mechanical, Electronic, Computer and Aerospace Engineering. 

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THE POLITECNICO’S ACTIONS FOR GENDER EQUALITY

POP – Pari Opportunità Politecniche programme (Polytechnic Equal Opportunities) is the strategic programme through which the University is committed to guaranteeing an environment for studying and working that respects gender identity, and different abilities, cultures and origins. Within it, there are various initiatives to promote STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) among girls in upper schools and incentivise them to enrol at Politecnico di Milano. Girls@Polimi scholarships, for example, funds academic scholarships for future students enrolling on engineering courses with a low percentage of females (mechanics, electronics and computing), which offer successful candidates € 8000 euros each, for each of the three years of the degree, in addition to free accommodation. 

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“Awareness of gender diversity is a first step, which must be followed by concrete action not only within our universities, but at the wider level and in the international context. Building networks and supporting common causes increases our ability to influence decision makers”

comments vice rector Donatella Sciuto, stressing the international and systematic aspects of this imbalance.

To this end, to guide the actions that need to be undertaken, we have written two working instruments: the first is Gender Balance, an annual analysis of the University from the perspective of gender in academic programmes and work, among teaching and technical-administrative staff. It sets out objectives, tools and directions; the specific plan of action to be undertaken, over a three-year period, is described in the Gender Equality Plan: “we have set aside a specific budget”, says the rector’s office, with the objective of “recognising the dignity of every person in their work and studies, guaranteeing equality of treatment, promoting initiatives aimed at removing discrimination in training, access to jobs, orientation and during careers. 

Read the Gender budget and Gender equality plan

What you are reading is an article from the latest issue of the Magazine of the Alumni of the Politecnico di Milano. (read it here). MAP is one of the many initiatives created by Alumni Politecnico di Milano. If you want to receive two issues of the magazine in paper format, consider donating..

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Politecnico and Amazon together to support female students of STEM subjects

Encouraging young women in their ambition to pursue a career in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is one of the Politecnico’s diversity & inclusion objectives. Through the POP – Pari Opportunità Politecniche programme (Polytechnic Equal Opportunities), the university is committed to guaranteeing a study and work environment that respects gender identities, different skills, cultures and origins. 

This strategic plan often aligns with the objectives of large companies: such as Amazon, which, for the fourth consecutive year, has awarded the  Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary to support training in areas where, unfortunately, the proportion of female students is still low, helping the recipients to become leaders of the tech future and an example for many young women studying sciences.  

The Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary consists of a  €6,000 grant for the 2021/2022 academic year , with possible renewal for the following two years. In addition to supporting female students financially, Amazon also makes available its company managers, as mentors to help the students to develop useful skills for future work, such as building an effective CV or training for interview at Amazon or other companies. 

There are four bursaries this year, one of which is in collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano . The winner - Jihad Founoun   - is currently in her first year of Computer Engineering. The other recipients include Valentina Cristoferi, studying Computer Engineering at the Politecnico di Torino; Elisa Cacace studying Computer Engineering at the ‘Tor Vergata’ University of Rome and Giorgia Orofino, studying Computer Engineering at the University of Cagliari.  

Jihad Founoun
Jihad Founoun 

 JIHAD FOUNOUN: COMPUTER SCIENCE IS “A FAMILY AFFAIR” 

 The passion for computer science is a “family affair” for Jihad Founoun  , a twenty-year-old from Monza of Moroccan origin, who enrolled in the Computer Engineering course at the Politecnico di Milano in part thanks to the encouragement by her developer sister:

“I graduated from the Istituto Professionale Odontotecnico (Dentistry College) but I have always been good in science and my sister encouraged me to change direction at university. I like programming and I love the idea of being able to manage and solve big problems through a 'simple' code”.

Jihad Founoun would like to become a teacher to make information technology more accessible to more people.

I think it's important to have have inspiring female role models in STEM subjects, as happened to me with my sister Amina. To all girls interested in STEM subjects, I would like to say: don’t be put off by prejudices.Fortunately, there are projects such as Amazon's Women in Innovation Bursary, thanks to which I will have the necessary support to continue on my course and fulfil my dreams”

You too can support future female students in Engineering courses with low female participation rates: donate to Girls@Polimi. Click here.

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The future of STEMs at Politecnico: interdisciplinary and inclusive

“Science has no gender: the reason girls don't seem fond for science it sometimes is because they aren't encouraged. For this reason, the Politecnico has been organizing events open to children for years (including Researchers' Night ), to teach them with simple words what is scientific research".

So says to Elle the executive vice rector of the Politecnico di Milano and delegate for Research and Diversity Donatella Sciuto , interviewed on the STEM professions which, even today, are subject to a cultural resistance imposed by society, which continues to see these professions as “ men's interests” .

"In the collective imagination, technical professions are perhaps still a natural gift for men, a great achievement for women. It still happens that female engineers feel the need to justify or belittle their role. I believe that the real step forward will be taken when most of us think that the choice to devote ourselves to a technical profession is simply a legitimate aspiration. An answer to the curiosity, interest and desires of the person ", as written by the Vice Rector in the preface of the book“ Alumnae. Engineer and technologies ”.

STEM. AN APPROACH THROUGH HUMANITIES

In the interview Donatella Sciuto discusses the future of new STEM professionals, who will increasingly favor an interdisciplinary approach, combining the "mathematical"aspects with the "humanistic" one: nowadays, in fact technological skills are not enough to develop new technologies.

"We need innovative capacity, creativity and a humanistic approach, because we need to be able to understand the social and personal impact of what we achieve".

This is the case of professions growing in the last few yars, such as those in the field of cybersecurity , which require IT skills but also management and law skills, taught at the Politecnico in two master's courses (Computer Engineering and Cyber ​​Risk Strategy and Governance), and the study and management of efficient mobility for citizens , studied in depth in the degree course in Mobility Engineering, which combines technological skills with those of logistics and planning.

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THE GENDER REPORT: A SNAPSHOT OF THE UNIVERSITY AND THE ACTIONS TAKEN WITH RESPECT TO THE GENDER PERSPECTIVE

In accordance with the strategic actions of the Politecnico di Milano in favor of greater diversity and inclusion, the Gender Report takes a snapshot of the University every year with respect to the gender perspective in study and work paths, among students and internal staff of the teaching staff and the technical-administrative staff.

From this analysis are made clear the policies and positive actions to be implemented to promote equal opportunities, thus tracing new goals and points of arrival.

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In the book “ALUMNAE, Engineer and Technologies” we have collected the stories of 67 engineers in our community. The target? Telling a set of positive examples for the “STEM” girls of today and tomorrow. This book is one of the many initiatives created by Alumni Politecnico di Milano. If you like our activities, you can donate to support them .

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