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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article17 April 2023Madrid6 min read

EMT Madrid & Comillas University discuss their Women in STEM Chair

In the academic year 2019-2020 (Spain), women made up just 29.8% of students, with this figure dropping substantially at intermediate and higher VET. Female talent, crucial in the ongoing and upcoming mobility transformations, still needs much more support to balance the scale and reach its full capacity; and partnerships like this one are vital to achieving this change.

In an attempt to tackle this, EMT Madrid and Comillas University partnered to develop the''Chair for the Promotion of Women in STEM in Vocational Training for Sustainable Mobility''.

POLIS Network conducted an interview with Julieta de Micheo (Director of Institutional Affairs and CSR at EMT Madrid) and Yolanda González-Arechavala (Director of the Chair for the Promotion of Women in STEM in Vocational Training for Sustainable Mobility), to learn more about the initiative:

How and when was this Chair created?

Julieta de MicheoThe Chair is an initiative of ours (EMT Madrid) together with the Iberdrola Foundation. It was created during the summer of 2020 to improve the access of women to training and employment opportunities in STEM, focusing on the sustainable mobility and public transport sectors. Moreover, our goal was also to analyse the degree to which the academic content of STEM degrees is in line with the skills needed in organisations like ours; academic training does not always match the training needs at a business level.

Yolanda González-Arechavala: When it comes to the Comillas Pontifical University, we had already been working for many years to promote STEM vocations. Therefore, when EMT and Iberdrola approached us to propose the creation of this Chair, we quickly accepted the challenge! We are very pleased to work together with both for something we are so passionate about.

What have, so far, been your main findings? Is there anything surprising that you would like to bring to the spotlight?

YolandaThe most surprising part has been realising the full complexity of the issue, which involves diverse interrelated factors in various areas (educational, personal, socio-cultural, and family-related). We must work on all of them to solve the different causes that affect not only the students, but also their families, teachers, counsellors, and more. The whole society needs to get involved both in the public and private spheres.

JulietaWhile we have noticed a change at the business level as well as in our society, there is still much to do. There is still, for example, a significant gender imbalance between speakers at specialised technical conferences. Public-private collaboration is essential here – we need to work together! It is a short, medium, and long-term job.

How do you view the evolution of the presence of women in STEM vocations since the creation of the Chair, and how do you see it evolving in the short-, medium-, and long-term future?

JulietaThe results are not yet here, but they will come. The Chair is making a substantial effort, going from the early stages of education to University and Vocational Training. We do not only focus on students but also work with the educative sector, companies, and other social organisations. We believe that we are on the right track - step by step, everything will come.

YolandaWhile this is a complex problem and, therefore, we cannot say for sure that a large number of women in STEM vocations has changed significantly since the creation of the Chair, there has been a positive evolution in the number of students who decide to study Vocational Training and our society is increasingly aware and involved in tackling the issue. Indeed there has been a significant increase in initiatives and interest on the part of companies.

What has the Chair achieved so far, and what are the next steps?

Yolanda: Our main achievement has been to gain a foothold in Spanish society. Our activities focus on three main features; research, action, and dissemination. Through the creation of dissemination activities, workshops in educational centres, presentation of reports, and organisation of round tables, we have managed to showcase the power of public-private collaboration to tackle crucial societal challenges – and we will continue to do so!

Julieta: We are firmly committed to increasing the opportunities available for women and their presence in the sector, as well as deeply aware of their crucial role in the transformation that the mobility sector is currently undergoing. At EMT Madrid, we will continue to advance gender parity in our company and offer stability and opportunities to women with STEM vocations.

Do you have best practices to share with those wanting to promote the presence of women in STEM vocations, especially in sustainable mobility?

Yolanda: We must showcase the value of STEM careers, improve the experiences of students and teachers so that they see the usefulness and creativity of the sector, and adequately train school counsellors. Last but not least, gender stereotypes continue to be deeply rooted in our society; it is, therefore, essential to visibilise STEM women by, for example having both STEM students and professionals talk publicly about their careers and experiences.

Julieta: Linked to this, I would also highlight an action promoted by our company, the organisation of the Conference "Commitment to the Employability of Women". This conference counts with presentations by high-level representatives of educational institutions, interest groups, and companies linked to the transport and mobility sector. The greater presence of women in public transport must be achieved through the joint alliance of companies, public authorities, academia, and society as a whole; we must always keep this in mind.

Women in STEM face challenges both entering and, once in, being part of the workforce. Does the Chair have any measures to tackle these possible challenges?

Yolanda: The dissemination work carried out by the Chair, presenting successful experiences of women in the STEM world, allows girls and women to have new female role models. In addition, companies are increasingly aware of the need to attract female talent at all levels, both to have a more sustainable society and for the value that diversity brings to them. For this reason, companies are increasingly seeking women with STEM training.

This is not just an issue in Spain, it is a Europe-wide issue. If we also add the lack of female talent in these careers, it will not be possible to reduce the labour-gender gap and achieve a sustainable future.

What would you tell those girls and women interested in mobility and starting a career in STEM?

Julieta: STEM education and training have become a priority to ensure that young people, and especially women, have the skills to compete in a globalised economy based on knowledge and technology. I would like to encourage them to consider sustainable mobility and transport for their career development as it is one of the most reliable, stable, secure, and highly innovative sectors.

YolandaTo not doubt it and go for it! You can significantly help improve people's living conditions and create a more sustainable society through STEM. A truly sustainable society cannot be achieved without female talent. It is necessary to find the solution to the current social issues of our time by avoiding all biases, including gender. It is our responsibility to achieve this.


This article first appeared on POLIS Network on 24 March 2023



Publication date
17 April 2023
  • Policy and research
  • Spain