This article is part of an ongoing reflection series by Sofia Nogués, Senior External Communications Manager at Clarivate Analytics, exploring her recent sailing eXXpedition and activist work empowering women and girls towards STEM careers.
Sofia Nogués is based in the Clarivate Barcelona office. Selected from 10,000 applicants, Sofia successfully completed a 10-day voyage from Aruba to Panama in December 2019 as part of the global eXXpedition initiative – an all-women voyage exploring the impact of plastics and toxics in our ocean.
As an eXXpedition ambassador, Sofia is now sharing what she learned with her own community to raise awareness for women in STEM. In this blog she talks about the lasting outcomes of her experience, and how it has inspired her to inspire others.
Sailing across the Caribbean in a 72-foot sailboat is no easy feat and yet, as leg 5 of eXXpedition Round the World, our 14-woman crew made it. We sailed 755 nautical miles from Aruba to Panama in a journey that not only opened our eyes to the unseen microplastics that are invading our oceans, but also put the spotlight on women doing science. Since I’ve been back from eXXpedition, I’ve been speaking to kids and teenagers in schools across Barcelona about gender equality in STEM careers and presenting workshops about plastic pollution.
Empowerment at sea
During the ten days that we sailed from Aruba to Panama, we had many conversations — especially during our night shifts as we struggled to keep one another awake. Discussions ranged from potential solutions to the plastic crisis to our aspirations and dreams in life or revelations when growing up. We shared our experiences, our frustrations, our challenges and, more importantly, we built a circle of trust that has travelled with us beyond our sailing journey. When I think back to the hours we spent on deck or the magical moments of having dinner all together as the sun set and we talked about the highlights of the day, I can’t help but feel the positive energy that surrounded us.
Being in a boat with 13 other women is a truly empowering experience. Getting out of our comfort zone to sail 755 miles — some without any previous sailing experience — doing research and sharing solutions to the ever-growing plastic pollution crisis was very empowering. Coming up with ideas to tackle single-use plastic and sharing experiences during and after the expedition has also been incredibly encouraging. Each of us is working hard as eXXpedition Ambassadors to share and raise awareness to the three-fold mission of the project: give more visibility to women in science, promote women in sailing and make the unseen microplastics visible.
Empowering the next generation of girls
“For me, it’s incredibly important to empower the next generation of girls so they feel that they can do whatever they set themselves to do.”
I’ve been speaking to girls and boys at schools across Barcelona from the age of eight all the way to sixteen. It’s very inspirational to see how they are interested in the impact of single-use plastic on our environment and how science can provide solutions to this crisis. Many of them are already taking action — I’ve come across groups that are tackling environmental issues as an after-school activity, and others that are working with institutions on research projects focused on microplastics.
For me, it’s incredibly important to empower the next generation of girls so they feel that they can do whatever they set themselves to do. They shouldn’t hear discouraging comments such as “perhaps you should do X or Y; engineering is too hard”, etc. Quite the opposite, they should be encouraged to challenge themselves. Otherwise, we will continue to have a lack of women in STEM fields as we do today, where only 30% of all the global STEM workforce is female.
When I go into a school to talk about eXXpedition and I’m asked about the all-female aspect of the project, I say:
“Look around. For every 10 girls you see, only 3 will go on to study a STEM career. That’s why eXXpedition is an all-female scientific expedition.”
It’s an ‘awe’ moment for both girls and boys — especially for elementary kids who may not have been exposed to bias just yet. Hopefully that eye-opening moment will go on to inspire the next generation of girls when they go on to choose a career in STEM.
Interested in more stories like this one? Discover #LifeatClarivate with voices from our global colleagues.
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