It is no coincidence that Arantza Mendes Rodriguez turns 19 on International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11. Arantza is a Mexican who started her path in science when she was just seven years old, and admits she has fallen in love with robotics since her first summer course at RobotiX, an organization that promotes technology education in Mexico and Latin America. She describes how “learning through play” sparked her passion for a field of study still dominated by men. Being the only woman on several teams, Arantza represented Mexico in the First Lego League, where she built a robot that fights wildfires; At the World Robotics Olympiad, where a robot that builds a rocket has been created and programmed, and at NASA’s International Aeronautics and Space Program, they work to simulate life on Mars. Today she is a mechatronics engineering student at the University of Panamericana and although her main interest is in the aviation sector, she is keen to keep her mind open by testing her skills in different technological aspects. She highlights that while there is still a long way to go for women to achieve gender parity in a sector like hers, the UP ACM-W program that celebrates and advocates for women’s participation in science and technology, has helped her connect and feel supported by Other women in her field.
Another Mexican woman distinguished for her contribution to science is Dr. Lourdes Vega Vega, MD, Tleton Children’s Oncology Hospital. Like Arantza, Lorde developed a passion for science from a young age. She tells how her curiosity for discovering new things, as well as her deep interest in aiding recovery, led her to study pediatric oncology. Lorde explains how while her mind is focused on knowing the cause of things, on analyzing methods and getting accurate answers, and her mission to help and leave a better world, she has made medicine her only path, where science is with the nuances of human empathy. The doctor sees in women the qualities of sensitivity and resilience that are fundamental to the development of what she calls “the art of medicine.” Although the number of women in medical schools in previous decades was much lower than the number of men, specialties such as pediatrics and pediatric oncology have a female presence that exceeds the number of men. “If I have been able to see more, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants,” Dr. Vega echoes this phrase by Isaac Newton when she expressed her gratitude to the generations of women who paved the way for her, and for others like her to have the opportunities available to you today. Likewise, it serves to illustrate how science is a space of deep collaboration, where discoveries by researchers from one corner of the world can help save lives on the other side of the planet.
The incursion of women into science has been slow, thanks to the fact that so many of them have made their way through the years, and today, Arantza is a Mexican promise that inspires girls around the world to follow in her footsteps; While Dr. Vega’s work continues to save the lives of thousands of children. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of celebrating, encouraging and supporting women in science.
By XIMENA Suarez
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF FUERZA MEXICO TRUST