Less Google® glass and more gender glasses

8 Mar
Esther Arévalo, Marta Millaret

Last week, Barcelona hosted the Mobile World Congress 2019. From AQuAS, we attended the Health and Wellness Summit which takes place within the framework of 4YFN. Very relevant subjects were dealt with regarding technology and digital health putting the spotlight on artificial intelligence, data analytics, aspects of safety, user experience and health systems.

Apart from what was presented, we were able to read about different experiences and news regarding the lack of women among the speakers.

For this reason, today, 8 March, International Women’s Day, we interview Rossana Alessandrello, electronics engineer specialised in bioengineering who works in a world of technology and health, two environments with their own characteristics. Dolores Ruiz Muñoz, epidemiologist and public health technician specialised in gender subjects, conducted the interview.

What are the people you work with like? What responsibilities do women have and what roles do they tend to play in your sector?

Men. I work in a world of men and I would say that there are differences with the roles of women in the ICT. While men are more daring and reckless, women are not. Women provide the element of feasibility and bring ideas down to earth. My feeling is that without women, men would not accomplish anything. We bring everything down to earth in every way. We make work plans operational, from a management, legal and social perspective.

What have your men or women bosses been like?

Men. And I see it as my own limitation. I do not take enough risks. I make things possible but I am not sufficiently audacious. That is my reality, my framework. I provide the creative part but “taking the plunge” is what I lack. I have worked with American, Swedish and Catalan bosses, both in private and public companies. It would not seem to be a coincidence. I am not saying that there are no women technological entrepreneurs, there are some. In my opinion, they have attained leadership positions because they have been able to take advantage of “the plunge” that men take and so jump themselves.

How do you see the future?

I see the future positively. For me, the collaboration between men and women is a very positive collaboration, and it is a necessary synergy. It is just a matter of accepting differences and taking them into account. I consider myself to be an enterprising person. I have built up my professional career which has ranged from offering specific products to managing teams. I have chosen and managed my own career and made my decisions.

In the context of innovation, do you have the perception that there are gender biases? For example, in subjects where innovation is prioritised, the way innovation is done or in any other aspect?

There are no biases. No biases at all. We all want to innovate. Perhaps there is a nuance in the fact that female innovation is always oriented towards improvement and impact. In this respect, I would go so far as to say that there are differences. An example of this would be the case of Bill Gates when he considered creating an operative system without being very sure at the time of the implications it would have in the long run. In my opinion, women on the other hand, work with a creativity that always includes a reason, an end aim or an objective. It is not a paradigm of innovating for innovating’s sake. The other paradigm would be “a challenge as a challenge”.

If we ask the general public whether they can mention the name of a woman known for her contributions to the ICT world, they would probably have considerable difficulty. It is probably because of this that there are international awards and initiatives exclusively for women and that their equivalent does not exist for men. For example, I am thinking about the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2018, Women IT Awards, International Girls in IT Day and Women in Health IT Community.

Most of the projects of public procurement of innovation in which we are working on from the AQuAS were begun by men. We should ask ourselves whether it is because women are not in the appropriate positions or whether it is for other reasons. Similarly, the majority of SMEs that tender for these projects are led by men.

What do you think about quota policies?

I think other things need to be done. There is a real need to train, to educate, to prepare ourselves in equality in the defence of ideas and to encourage this aspect from the time we are very young girls. School has a role in all this and it needs to go a step further and the communications media too.

I have often been “the woman” in meetings and I have been treated differently because of this. Things are constantly happening to me which I do not think would happen to men. Recently, in a meeting I was given a kiss on the forehead as a show of “thanks” for an idea. Further back, in another meeting, I remember that I was pregnant and that they introduced me with the phrase “This pregnant lady, please be kind to her”. I am sure they are experiences which arise from a “naturalness of affection” that I have normalised, as a woman, to be able to move forward professionally. I have many anecdotes like these. I would say that in some sectors, such as in mine which combines ICT and health, things are very much like this at the moment.

Would you like to mention anything that I haven’t asked you about?

Yes. I have had the experience of not having being able to opt for a position of responsibility because of being on maternity leave. It was an American company, at a time of change and fusions. At that time, I experienced firsthand that in the “male world” not being permanently available was not acceptable. I hope things have changed.

Thank you very much, Rossana and Lola!

It has been a year since we published a text by Iria Caamiña from this space about needing to put on our gender glasses. Are we still in the same position?

From AQuAS, we strongly support the incorporation of gender perspective in our day to day and in our work lines. Gender perspective? Yes, absolutely. And also new technologies, research, assessment, data analytics and innovation.

We would like to end this text with this video from EIT Health about women and innovation in health.


Building gender equality

8 Mar
Iria Caamiña

The media systematically show us examples of the persistence of discriminatory situations for women such as the gender wage gap, the lack of women in managerial positions and the violence towards women, among other things.

These situations are a result of our social construct which is still based on an androcentric model where man is placed at the centre, as a reference of values and of the view of the world while at the same time subordinating women and rendering them  invisible.

Taking advantage of the fact that today is March 8, International Women’s Day, we would like to review and reflect on how we are tackling this reality with the Government of Catalonia’s public policies.

The history of gender policies of the Catalan Government Administration goes back a long way. The Catalan Women’s Institute was created almost 30 years ago and it was this institution which began to formulate programmes for equality with the aim of guaranteeing real equality between men and women. In this context, the concept of equality has been reinterpreted and broadened and is now multidimensional:

  • Formal equality: the affirmation of the equality of rights in legislation
  • Equality of treatment: the absence of direct or indirect discrimination for reasons of sex
  • Equal opportunity: the compensation of existing inequalities in the conditions and positions of women and men
  • Gender equality: the assessment and consideration of the diversity and differences between women and men

The evolution of the concept of equality has run parallel to the evolution of strategies for intervention by public administrations. The first programmes of policies for women were centred on guaranteeing equal rights and on the absence of discrimination between men and women. Later, once the shortcomings of this concept had been verified, new measures for positive action were introduced to guarantee equal opportunities. More recently, gender mainstreaming has been introduced and prioritised.

Gender mainstreaming is a concept that arose in Sweden in the early nineties of last century to promote policies for women and was incorporated in the international agenda within the framework of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing. The inclusion of this strategy to develop policies for women was a turning point.

Gender mainstreaming in the area of the Catalan Government requires the incorporation of the gender perspective in all policies and the promotion of specific actions in favour of women from the different areas of Government Administration. This is the framework within which work is being done at present by the Government of Catalonia. The Department of Health has taken part in the six programmes led by the Catalan Women’s Institute and also in elaborating the four reports on gender mainstreaming.

On the other hand, the drive and implementation of measures and actions linked to gender policies in the Department of Health takes place within the framework of the Work Group for gender mainstreaming. This group is made up of people of reference from all the units and entities of the department, including the Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia (AQuAS), and it is coordinated by the Technical Cabinet of the General Secretary.

Aside from the achievements made based on measures taken and actions carried out, some of the most significant advances have been those made via regulation. Particularly noteworthy are:

Among the most noteworthy aspects of the Law of Equality (2015) is the regulation of interdepartmental bodies for coordination, in charge of applying gender mainstreaming both consultative and advisory in nature, and also of implementing mechanisms of collaboration, cooperation, control and sanction. Via this Law, the creation of the Observatory for Gender Equality was foreseen, a body which began functioning last June and of which the AQuAS forms a part of.

Despite the progress made, a lot of work remains to be done which we need to do together, not only as a legal obligation but also as a commitment to building a fairer society. No policy is neutral, and it affects men and women in different ways and this is why it is essential for us to put on our “gender glasses” during our daily tasks to identify possible differences so as to deal with them.

As you all know, dealing with gender is one of the editorial lines of the blog AQuAS (with posts written by Mercè Piqueras, Esther Vizcaino and Dolores Ruiz Muñoz) and we will be delving deeper into this subject shortly within the framework of the activity done at the AQuAS.

Post written by Iria Caamiña.

Committed to research assessment 100%

31 Aug

Since 2001, the AQuAS (Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia) has been in charge of evaluating the proposals of research projects that are eligible to receive funding from the Fundació La Marató de TV3. It means prioritising the research with the most quality using a quantitative and qualitative methodology in a process that lasts months and that ends in a face-to-face meeting of international experts.

Group photograph of the final meeting with international experts in assessing the FMTV3 call on Diabetes. Barcelona, September 2016. From left to right and top to bottom: Gerald Tomking (Diabetes Institution of Ireland), Joan MV Pons (AQuAS), Johann Wojta (Medical University of Vienna), Stephan Zipfel (University of Tuebingen), Karlheinz Friedrich (University Hospital Jena), Maite Solans (AQuAS), Harold de Valk (University Medical Centre Utrecht), Hans-Georg Joost (German Institute of Human Nutrition), Juergen Eckel (German Diabetes Center), Ernest Vinyoles (external observer), Anna Monsó (external observer), Gabriel Capellà (external observer), Jaume Reventós (external observer), Bea Ortega (AQuAS), Esther Vizcaino (AQuAS), Núria Radó (AQuAS)


The assessment of research which is centred at the AQuAS considers three different stages in the cycle of research. The assessment of research proposals (avaluació ex-ante), assessment during research (ongoing assessment) and assessment once the research has been completed (avaluació ex-post). The AQuAS has a long track record and lengthy experience in all these stages of research.

The fact that one and the same institution does assessment of research and assessment of the health system is altogether exceptional and is one of the strong points of the AQuAS. The two types of assessment benefit each other mutually as a result of the knowledge that is generated.

Another area of research in which the AQuAS has been a pioneer is in assessing the impact of research. This year, the International School for Research Impact Assessment (ISRIA) will be held in Denmark (more information here).

Since last year, the PERIS call is also assessed, which is an important new event and a strong boost for Catalan biomedical research. With regards to this call, it is worth highlighting the will and determination in placing people at the centre of research, and that we, in fact, right now find ourselves in a very good period because the analysis of data offers many opportunities in research.

Apart from all this there is a long-term task, which will take years, which has to do with the question of research and gender.

The article A global call for action to include gender in research impact assessment very quickly had a strong impact in social networks. It has been a year since we published a post recommending that it be read.

Almetrics evolution of this article: 220 (26/8/2016), 258 (31/8/2017).

The article heads the publications of this magazine in terms of impact.

Noteworthy facts:

Regarding the question of research and gender, we took the topic up again on this blog with another post as a call for reflection and to be aware of the reality that surrounds us, both within and beyond the area of research.

At AQuAS we ask ourselves how such a small team in number but huge in involvement manages to deal with the complex mechanism of comprehensive assessment of several research calls, research impact and also carry out research on the involvement of citizens in research, research in the media and the already mentioned question of research and gender.

In short, a lot of work done and a lot of work on the go at present with 100% involvement of the research team at the AQuAS and of many other collaborators and experts.

Post written by Marta Millaret (@MartaMillaret)

Women and science: from photography 51 to the scissor graph. Have we progressed much at all?

28 Apr
Dolores Ruiz Muñoz

On 15 December 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared 11 February as the day to celebrate the Dia International Day of Women and Girls in Science. With all the world days that we have to celebrate it is inevitable to ask ourselves whether this day was necessary, or not.

Today, from this platform, we would like to invite you to accompany us on this reflection.

When talking about the subject of discrimination against women in science, the typical question that is asked to highlight this discrimination is usually: How many women scientists do you know? Now, Marie Curie is usually one of the female scientists most mentioned here. It would seem we are doing well.

Let’s take this a little further: what happens if we pose the question about present day scientists? We might find ourselves in a context where we ourselves are women scientists, or we are all surrounded but women scientists, and think that finding several names would not be that difficult.

However, what about beyond our place of work? It seems as if we are now starting to have some difficulty. Outside of the circles where these women scientists operate it seems that people do not know much about women who do science and that the icon of Rosalind Franklin and her fotografia 51 remains relevant more than ever today.

Image of the Photograph 51 of the blog Centpeus of Daniel Close (@nielo40)

One reason to explain the invisibility of women in science is the fact that there were considerable barriers impeding women from gaining access to academic education for many years. Women were relegated in society to carrying out the role of reproduction, and it was almost impossible for them to get an academic education in equal terms to men, and it was, therefore, normal that later they did not stand out as scientists or let alone managed to become one.

Of course, even so, there have been women such as Nettie Maria Stevens, who have been able to leave their mark. This said, always from a position in the background of the history of science, and without receiving the clear acknowledgment that men in science have in their lifetimes.

And now what? Is the excuse of there being an academic ‘gap’ still true? This reasoning is no longer valid when we see that there are more women than men studying science degrees. Why are women today still absent in positions of responsibility in science? What is happening along the way? How is it possible that in Catalonia there are more women than men studying science but yet only 2 out of the 42 research centres have women as General Managers?

Image of the web Women in Science of the UNESCO

The situation today is known as the scissor graph. Women are left behind along the way in science. Even though the presence of women and men in recent years has tended to converge a little, the difference is still very visible and huge, especially in positions of greatest responsibility. This is a clear reflection of the glass ceiling which acts as an invisible barrier and which women come up against in the majority of fields in the labour market in their quest to attain positions of responsibility.

The Scissor graph (Mujeres y ciencia, CSIC)

The fact, however, that women have less and less presence in science goes beyond social injustice, unless of course there are some at this stage who still believe this happens because they are less capable, and not because of the social obstacles they encounter along the way which go far beyond the wage gap, a fact that has been more than demonstrated. All this signifies a clear loss of talent for science and for society; in short, for everyone.

Image of the report Women, gender, inequality and development

Source: Carme Poveda, Observatory on Women in Business and Economy, Chamber of Commerce of Barcelona

One could think that this may not be happening in the health sciences. In fact, it is one of the most feminised scientific sectors that we have. But is this so? Just thinking about what jobs are occupied by women in the health sciences makes it clear that this sector is not without this problem of, let’s call it defeminisation of power. In fact, the health sciences is one of the areas where the gap between women and men is very much a reality.

Just yesterday, the Ministry of Health launched a campaign aimed at the public in general to promote vaccination and immediately, a strong controversy was generated in the communications media. In the video it stands out that the only health professional in uniform who does not represent their reality is the nurse that appears with a cap and miniskirt. What happened? A possible explanation might be that the images were obtained from a free photo bank that clearly does not reflect the reality of our present day context.

For now, we will set aside writing about quotas according to sex, a concept that is never without controversy nor leaves anyone indifferent. But for the moment it seems that the International Day of Women and Children in Science may be necessary after all and especially of the Girl in Science as well because they are the scientists of the future who we hope will be able to close the gap in the pair of scissors.

We end this note with a very simple question: is there still someone who believes that we have already achieved parity?

Would you like to read more about the subject? Esther Vizcaino published Gender equality, we all win.

Post written by Dolores Ruiz-Muñoz.

Gender equality in research, we all benefit

3 Nov
Esther Vizcaino

Several month ago, we spoke about the publication of the article A global call for action to include gender in research impact assessment, in which the team of impact of research at AQuAS participated.

Investment in biomedical research has grown exponentially over recent years and consequently, governments, the industry, research centres and citizens expect to see a return on this investment translated into an increase in health benefits. Investing in research inappropriately can lead to economic and health losses. What’s more, this investment can also be wasted if it is not distributed equally in terms of gender.

That women are poorly represented in the field of health research is nothing new. By poorly represented we are referring to them as researchers as well as participants in research studies. Women receive less funding, appear less frequently than men as authors of publications in scientific journals and are awarded fewer scientific prizes. For example, of the 210 Nobel Prizes of physiology and medicine, there are only 12 women (5,7%).

Moreover, there is evidence that the differences in sex (biological) and of gender (sociocultural) are not included in a routine way in the design of research studies. This can mean that women find themselves at a disadvantage with regards to men as beneficiaries of research in terms of the health, economic and social impact associated with research. It has been demonstrated that incorporating the gender perspective stimulates innovation and excellence in research and technology.

Given the global and fragmented nature of research, we are faced with the inescapable need for all administrations, research institutions and assessment agencies to promote scientific policies that maximise the impact of research by means of gender equality.


Taking this necessity into account, researchers from 15 countries from 6 continents have made a “call for action” in the article to include the gender perspective in the assessment of the impact of research done with the aim of maximising its scientific, economic and social impact. Different recommendations are made in the article to all actors involved in research on how to include and reinforce gender analysis within the assessment of the impact of research.

In 2014, the United Nations launched a campaign, HeForShe, to fight against gender bias at a global level. This campaign wants to involve everyone, including men and boys, as defenders and agents of change to obtain gender equality and the rights of women.

Historically, gender equality has perhaps been mainly adopted as a subject of interest by women but including gender equality in all spheres is a subject for all.

Post written by Esther Vizcaino Garcia, AQuAS.