Woman Scientist of the Month: Lígia Amâncio (05/2019)

In regular intervals, EPWS interviews a distinguished woman scientist in 10 questions.

In this section, we are interviewing European women of various ages and disciplines, recognized by the scientific community for their achievements, who are also concerned by the gender-equality goals of EPWS. They are true role models and a source of inspiration for the future for other women scientists.

Read all the Interviews here

This month EPWS gives the floor to Prof. Lígia Amâncio. Professor Amâncio is an outstanding Portuguese social scientist with interest on gender issues.





EPWS: What made you want to go to science? How did you decide to choose your discipline and your particular field of research? Did you have an inspiring model (parent, relative, teacher, literature, etc.)?

While my older sister decided to study biology, I thought that studying people was more interesting and decided to study psychology. I also had a very inspiring teacher of philosophy and psychology at school who contributed to my interest for psychology. The decision to go to science was a way to contribute to the development of my country. When I came back to Portugal after the end of the dictatorship, (it was impossible to study psychology or any other social science in Portugal at the time), universities needed teachers to respond to the huge demand for higher education.


What do you work on? How important is your research topic for science development or society?

Soon I decided to study the discrimination of women at work. This was a social issue largely ignored by social scientists in my country compared with the great interest for discrimination based on social class. My PhD (in 1989) on this thematic became the first thesis on gender studies in Portugal. I have pursued my research interest in this area studying the discrimination of women in highly qualified professions, such as science, medicine, the magistrates, as well as politics.

My research highlights the co-existence of the trajectory of success Portuguese women have made in the field of education, qualifications and expertise, thus contributing to the process of modernization and democratization of our country, with the persistence of very traditional gender stereotypes that hamper women’s careers and the recognition of their capacities. My studies can help women understand that their qualifications are not enough in a gender inequality based society to understand how important policies against gender discrimination are.


What is your greatest success as a researcher (and as a teacher if you teach), the one you are most proud of? Could you share the memory of a great personal satisfaction during your research career with us?

I am particularly proud of my PhD students who (all) concluded their thesis and took gender studies to other institutions of higher education and the private sector. I was also President of the Commission for Equality and Women’s Rights (1996-1998) and member of the board of the funding agency (2006-2012) of science at the ministry of science. The President of the Republic awarded me the Medal of Henry the Navigator in 2004 for the combination of science and politics in my career in the defense of women’s rights.

My greatest personal satisfaction is the recent publication of an e-book with the contributions of my students (among other authors who shared with me some time of their lives) about the role I played in their lives. The preparation of this book came to their mind as I started planning my early retirement and kept secret until the end of last year when it was ready).


In which country/countries have you been doing research?

I only did research in Portugal.


SAGE (Systemic Action for Gender Equality)


EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?

In the coming months, until September, I will be busy with a H2020 project on gender equality in higher education (SAGE – Systemic Action for Gender Equality) for which I am the coordinator in Portugal.


Did you meet any barriers (personal/social/structural) during your career as a scientific researcher? Did you benefit from mentoring?

It was extremely difficult to raise a child and prepare a PhD at the same time in the 1980s. I did have opportunities of progressing in my career but was always part of the outer circle of my department. Hence, I did not benefited from any mentoring, something I tried at my best to guarantee to my students.


What is the situation of gender equality in your working field? In the countries where you have been working, were there gender equalities policies and did you experience their effects?
What do you suggest for a better implementation of gender equality in science?

The influence of gender equality policies in the EU was very important in southern countries like mine. Unfortunately, gender equality has lost most of its centrality in European policies in the last years. Gender equality in science is practically what remains from previous years but this policy could still be improved: for example, by being much more assertive on the respect of European norms and regulations about gender equality in evaluation policies in general. In Portugal, we do not have any funding for gender studies since 2008 and the funding agency does not have any requirement regarding gender balance in research teams or evaluation panels.



Did you experience networking between women scientists? Can you comment your answer and explain why yes or not?

I did, in different contexts and I find networking most important. For example, I participated in the foundation of the Portuguese Women Scientists Association (AMONET, EPWS full member), which was an outcry of Portuguese women scientists against male dominated commissions of evaluation. I also participated in international networks of researchers on gender studies, such as the group of “women and power” supported by the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (House of Human Sciences, France), which was extremely helpful to my research on women scientists in Portugal.


If you could start again your life, would you choose again to be a scientist? What would you change?

Yes, I would. I would only change the values that became dominant in the last years and that have contributed, in my opinion, to decrease the social consciousness of scientists. The pressure they are under leads them to be more and more focused on their own personal interests. Apart from what is a global evolution of values, I do not think I would change anything.


Could you leave a message to young European women scientists?

The problems women scientists face in the limitations of their careers and opportunities are global. The lack of gender equality is the most serious threat for central values in science ethics, such as merit and recognition. Hence, do not forget that more gender equality leads to better science.



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