Hard sciences have been considered historically as a “masculine” field of knowledge. Women that undertake studies and a career in these fields face multiple barriers and challenges. Although these challenges and barriers, Albanian women in STEM, working in the country or abroad, are real success models, both professionally and academically, for each other and new generations to come of women in STEM. 

Our panelists took participants along their journeys in STEM, highlighting challenges, opportunities and lessons learnt. Prof. Dr. Anila Paparisto, a professor of Invertebrate Zoology and Didactics of Teaching at the University of Tirana, emphasized the need for open knowledge and open access, as necessary so everyone can have access to knowledge. She shared her practice of involving female students in STEM project and other scientific collaborations, which also served the aim of making new generations part of research, as it stands at the foundation of education for new generations. Dr. Teuta Xhindi, Head of Informatics Department at the Mediterranean University of Albania, emphasized that lack of women participation in STEM is cultural, societal, but also policy related. She called for policy changes that stimulate women participation in STEM, especially in emerging technologies, robotics, data science, machine learning, etc. Eni Dodbiba, joining in from Sweden, a business development manager at Configura, shared her personal experience with STEM environments being less welcoming for women, and young girls and women in these fields lack to have a feeling of belonging, mainly due to lack of women role models in the field. Further, the discussion focused on the role that men as allies, being fathers or spouses, have on supporting women and girls to venture into STEM, and defy mentalities, as shared by Dr. Entela Hoda. She further said that Albania, by incentivizing the participation of women and girls in STEM, and strengthening the sector itself, can become an attraction for biotech companies. Zana Tabaku, joining the panel from Pristina, Kosovo, where she is Co-founder and CEO of APPDAC, shared her interesting journey from dropping out of English literature studies to venturing into ICT taking advantage of non-formal education opportunities. Ms. Tabaku emphasized that for accomplished women in STEM there is a need to become mentors of good role models, to incentivize young girls and women, that might consider venture into STEM. Sidorela Uku, a computer engineer, and Co-Founder of Collective, said that her path towards STEM was led by both passion and the fields’ relevance for the job market. Based on her experience at being part of the first Albanian hackerspace, she emphasized the need for common spaces where women can share their experience and expertise to inspire and support those who want to venture or move forward in the field.  

More women in STEM means lowering the revenue gap, that is being expanded, due to high paying STEM jobs. Also, more women in STEM are needed in higher hierarchical positions. In this regard, in Albania, there is a deep gap of women leading STEM departments or universities. Increasing visibility thus remains only the first step to promote excellent professionals, it also goes along with contributing to cultural changes. These efforts need to be complemented by policy advocacy and options to incentivize women participation in STEM and positions in higher hierarchical positions. 

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The whole discussion can be found here.