Women Behind PHOENIX: Elisabet González Mira
In honor of International Women’s Day, we are highlighting just a few of the many women behind the scenes at PHOENIX-OITB. This interview series takes a look at their career paths, frustrations and inspiration.
Elisabet González-Mira, PhD (ICMAB-CSIC)
Job title: Associated Researcher, Coordinator of nanopharmaceutical development at the Research Unit of Molecular Nanoscience and Organic Materials (Nanomol) (Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC)
Role in PHOENIX: Coordinates and supervises analytical development and preclinical testing
Tell us a bit about your position and your role in the PHOENIX?
I am associated researcher at the Research Unit of Molecular Nanoscience and Organic Materials (Nanomol) from Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB), which belongs to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). My research is focused on the design of a new type of nanoparticulate systems for technologically advanced applications in biomedicine (rare congenital metabolic diseases, wound healing, ocular and dermal inflammatory diseases, etc.). My role in the PHOENIX project is to coordinate and supervise the analytical development and preclinical testing with the aim to advance the development of two effective nano-pharmaceuticals, which are two case-studies of the project, from bench to bedside.
How did you end up where you are? Was it a straight path or did it take you along many curves?
I ended up where I am by means of pursuing my enthusiasm for R&D&I. However, it took me along some curves, since the academic career is very demanding in order to achieve stable positions (dedication, mobility and competitiveness demands, and financial difficulties are just some of the challenges faced in this career path).
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job gaining knowledge, working with interdisciplinary teams (in cooperating projects such as PHOENIX), in order to develop new solutions for society: in my case, developing more effective and less toxic therapies thanks to the great potential of nanotechnology.
Who are your role models?
My role models are not just those who have been very successful or achieved great things, which can set seemingly unattainable standards for “normal” women. My role models are those “normal” women that have succeeded in their careers, making innovative contributions to science and society, and making feasible the compatibility between family life and professional life.
Is your field welcoming to women? Has sexism affected your career trajectory?
Women are a majority in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences. However, the gender gap is still considerable in senior positions, be it in academia or industry. Therefore, a glass ceiling for women still exists for senior leadership roles.
In some way, I have found sexism during my career trajectory that has manifested itself in the form of intrusive questions about my private life, intrusive comments about physical appearance, underestimation of my capability in some subjects, and so on.
Do you have tips for dealing with sexism in the workplace?
Some tips for dealing with sexism in the workplace are: avoiding language and images that include gender stereotypes, integrating the gender dimension in research and innovation (R&I) content, and knowing legislation, staff regulations and policy around sexual and psychological harassment.
ICMAB-CSIC is very aware of the importance of achieving equal opportunities in research and professional activity. From its origins it seeks the parity in its management team, on its committees and within the scientific staff. Besides, the Gender Equality Committee created within the Severo Ochoa project has the goal of recognizing and strengthening equal opportunities within the Institute. It organizes workshops and activities to raise awareness, and has sponsored the creation of a mailbox that anyone studying or working at ICMAB-CSIC can use (email@example.com), with the aim of making anyone feel safe and protected in front of physical or psychological situations of harassment that are gender related. One of the main goals of the Gender Equality Committee has been to create a Gender Equality Plan for the Institute and to make gender-related resources accessible to all the staff.
What advice can you give to young women contemplating a career in your field?
I encourage young women to do what they like, be confident in their capacity, to fight to reach their goals, and also that research can be compatible with having family life if you organize your life accordingly. Young women must internalize that there is no reason why a woman can’t do anything a man can; they have to overturn the idea that certain professions are not “for girls”. For example, women scientists have played a central role in the scientific advancement of nanomedicine and continue to make significant and innovative contributions.