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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Cross-disciplinary projects > Women and science: Engendering European research culture > Luisa Prista
Graphic element Luisa Prista: replacing 'I' with 'we'
    08-11-2001
 
Luisa Prista

Head of the 'Materials' Unit in Directorate G, Luisa Prista was the first woman appointed as head of a scientific unit at the RTD Directorate-General. She is a Mechanical Engineer with specialisations in energy, environment and economy. Before joining the Commission she worked in a number of locations around Europe, exploring different industrial sectors. Her five children never constituted an obstacle but were instead an incentive for her in her professional career.

"When I was appointed to the task of Head of Unit I had a variety of feelings: reward, enormous enthusiasm, but mainly responsibility not only as a manager but also as a female European citizen," says Prista. "I felt immediately fully committed, capable of performing my task and eager to participate actively in the definition of the role of research and science in our future society. I was given the opportunity to contribute from a more institutional position to RTD policy. At the same time the possibility to look at science, research and their impact on society from a global perspective and with a woman's eye is a very rewarding challenge!"

Identifying with the group
 

"I am aware that my gender influences my managing and leadership attitude, but it is difficult to say how much. Experts in management say that most women's management and leadership behaviour differs from that of men, often being more participative and tending towards what some call 'interactive leadership'. Women try hard to encourage participation, sharing of power and information, to enhance other colleagues' self-confidence and to 'energise' their teams in a very enthusiastic way. I consider myself to have this characteristic. Although I have to admit that it is a difficult way to manage a team. Sometimes enthusiasm can be misunderstood as 'cheerleading' risking a loss of credibility. It may take a little longer but then we gain in credibility when the finished product is delivered. I firmly believe in and encourage teamwork where every member has an active, committed role. I also recognise that we as women easily replace 'I' with 'we' and this is not just a way of speaking. It reflects our way of thinking and of sharing responsibilities.

"At the Unit level we have been sensitive to gender issues. We established the flexitime system that is now applied to both women and men, allowing the possibility to vary our working schedules, better combining work and family life. We are also implementing an internal gender-balanced organisation scheme aimed at task and responsibility sharing. At programme implementation level we are making every effort to achieve the targeted figures set by the Commission for women's participation in panels, and we can already see good progress.

 
The future is bright
 

"A very challenging task is that of understanding the role of women in the RTD of the future and integrating the gender dimension into all RTD activities, taking into account industrial, technological, economic and societal evolution. The good news is that we are transitioning to a knowledge-based society where knowledge and technology are the driving forces for progress and prosperity. At a time when we need to make full use of all possible resources, human and other, who would dare to forget and leave out more than half of our citizens? Women scientists are a fresh source of knowledge, not only as researchers but also as end users, educators and investors.

"While dealing with cutting-edge technologies, researchers are very much aware that the knowledge they are producing may affect us all and that the responsibility for its use must be collective. Women as scientists and citizens will have to be fully involved.

 
Women as integrators
 

"Does it mean that technology can be engendered? I do not think we can say that one technology is female and another is male. However, we have noticed that women feel more attracted to some fields and men to others. It is also true that, up to now, women have not shown a lot of enthusiasm for participation in industrial research. This is due to educational, social and cultural trends and not to their specific skills.

"I would be tempted to say that, while it is true that technology can not be engendered, its use and applications could well be. Advanced industrial technologies such as the nanotechnologies and biotechnology are becoming 'softer', more and more hybridised and interdisciplinary, and requiring increasing integration of different skills. As skilled 'integrators' women have a high capacity to create links, bridges and networks. The future is indeed favourable to the equal and effective participation of women in the RTD world! Still, we cannot just sit back and wait. Mainstreaming has to be encouraged. After all, we know that the only way to anticipate the future is to start building it from today!"

 
Identifying with the group
The future is bright
Women as integrators
   
     

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