Female scientists speak about the challenges that face minority women in the scientific field

Julia Trowbridge

When trying to grasp why immigration policies are so important to the U.S., it’s best to humanize the people you see on TV by listening to those that have immigrated to the United States.

For FoCo Speaks Ciencia on April 27 at the Horse & Dragon Brewery, five Latina women spoke about their personal experiences pertaining to the scientific field, but overall, their experiences that come from being a Latina woman.

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“I think the premise resonated with us, we both come from immigrant families and we’re both woman scientists, so hearing stories from them is something we could relate to,” said Arparna Barnzai, an attendee of the FoCo speaks! Ciencia. “It was wonderful and really powerful and moving.”

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  • Noa Roman- Muniz, an associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at CSU from Puerto Rico, speaks on her experiences as a Latina woman and a scientist at FoCo Speaks Ciencia! Fridy, April 27. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

  • Luz Perez, an astrophysicist who came to the United States at 14, speaks on her experiences as a Latina woman and a scientist at FoCo Speaks Ciencia! Fridy, April 27. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

  • Elizabeth Blotevogel, a Chile native and a DNA lab supervisor, speaks on her experiences as a Latina woman and a scientist at FoCo Speaks Ciencia! Fridy, April 27. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

  • Carolina Gutierrez, a biologist from Columbia, speaks on her experiences as a Latina woman and a scientist at FoCo Speaks Ciencia! Fridy, April 27. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

  • Zitely Sosa, an atmospheric scientist who originally lived in Mexico City, speaks on her experiences as a Latina woman and a scientist at FoCo Speaks Ciencia! Fridy, April 27. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

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Zitely Sosa

Sosa told a story of her father teaching her that she should value her education and her mother’s influence being a respected politician. Her mother worked hard and when she finally found a job where she could spend more time with her family Sosa’s mother would act like a stereotypical housewife. Sosa’s mother expected her daughters to learn how to clean and cook, even asking the women to clean up after the men, but Sosa’s father and brothers stood up for the women in the house.

“Looking back now to those days, I’m convinced that my mom just wanted to teach us how to maintain a clean and nice environment,” Sosa said. “But her ways and her gender biases didn’t allow her message to get across. And I wonder why she felt she had to do those chores, and why those gender biases persisted in her.”

Carolina Gutierrez

Gutierrez spoke about her experience of being a mother while in graduate school. After being granted a student visa to study in the US, Gutierrez discovered that she was pregnant. Gutierrez said that she was naive about the difficulties of raising a child without her husband also being in the US, but was happy that she made the decision to continue her career instead of becoming a housewife.

Silva speaks to four of the five women at FoCo Speaks Ciencia!
Armando Silva, a Greeley based Latino artist, explains his live painting to the four of the five Latina women scientists it was inspired by at FoCo Speaks Ciencia! All of the money raised at the event went to CienciaPR, a Puerto Rican non-profit that encourages young women to pursue science (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Gutierrez also spoke on the prejudices she experienced being a mother and a scientist, both in her colleagues’ perception of her and Latin American ideals of women being housewives.

“I also had to know that most PI’s and most faculty members will see a different, second-class citizen in you because you’re a mom because your priorities have changed, which is true,” Gutierrez said. “And I also saw the unfairness that male graduate students are not subjected to the same (prejudice).”

Elizabeth Blotevogel

Blotevogel’s story compared her childhood to her research. Blotevogel’s parents divorced when she was young, which is highly looked down upon Chile, but her childhood was still a positive experience for her. Blotevogel spoke on the similarities between the lessons she learned as a child and as a scientist, like lessons on failure and the fact we are all only human.

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“As you, my friends, are carving the edges of science with your discoveries every day, we are widening the landscape of science,” Blotevogel said.

As you, my friends, are carving the edges of science with your discoveries every day, we are widening the landscape of science.”  Elizabeth Blotevogel

Luz Perez

Perez immigrated to the US through a study visa when she was 14. Although Perez remembers Mexico as a beautiful and fantastic country that has a lot to offer, she also remembers the violence on the streets due to cartels. When Perez finally came to Fort Collins, she felt like she was finally safe and in a home where she could grow as a scientist.

“This is my home,” Perez said. “I’ve been here since I was 14. I learned how to live here… I don’t really want to leave, but I’m going to have to leave in February, and I don’t know how that’s going to play out in another country. I don’t understand why we all can’t live together.”

Noa Roman-Muniz

Roman- Muniz has been interested in science since she was young and listened to her parents speak so passionately about it. Roman- Muniz decided she wanted to save all the cows lives, and when she went to visit dairy farms, she realized there was a lack in communication between the dairy workers and owners of the cows because of a language difference. Roman- Muniz then changed her path of work to help the dairy workers that she says are invisible to our society.

“And finally, after 15+ years, I’ve finally understood that by helping people, I’m am still helping the animals and I’m still being the vet that I’ve wanted to be all my life,” Roman- Muniz said.

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.