Women in STEM Interview #5

By Lisa Banti


Yuejiao Yang is a Postdoc graduate. A researcher currently situated at the University of Trento in the Biotech Center for Biomedical Technologies. She is 34 years old and aspires to become a Scientist.

I spoke with her the afternoon of July 2nd 2021. She shared detailed and complete answers to the questions I asked during the interview.

“Skills are taken in account more so than gender“

What type of vision do you have for the near future, regarding gender equality in the workplace? I think gender equality is getting a fair share of attention now in society. It’s finally seen as a real problem and a global issue. It’s improved quite a lot in the past few years as well. I think there will be a positive change for the better in the future.

What do you think are the barriers that prevent from achieving gender equality in the workplace? On a worldwide basis, I think education is one of the main barriers preventing from progressing with gender equality. Not all women have the chance to go to school or get education. Considering the global female population, only a small percentage actually has the resources necessary to access education.

Nowadays, in some countries, there are more educated women than educated men. Education is an obstacle in reaching gender equality. This reality is even harder on third world countries, where the nation is still developing. I think its tradition and the concepts passed down that refer to women as lesser than men. We are portrayed as being helpless without a man to provide for us.

In the field that I’m working in, the research field, the barrier is more related to the confidence and capability a woman has. Here we’ve been educated and we’ve had the opportunity to study and learn. I think we have the potential to reach, maybe even surpass the capabilities of men. In my time here, I’m confident in saying that there is no gender difference in this place.

What does your experience amount to in working in a predominantly male workplace? This is quite interesting place. A few decades ago, so not too long, men occupied all positions. For example, there were only male professors. Even just ten years ago things were different. Thankfully, things are changing and now I’m working in a lab in a Department where the professor is a woman, and many of my colleagues are female. I think women have the advantage over men in the area of care for material, projects and/or instructions. The Department of Engineering has always been recognized and considered only for men so for there to be such a big change in the gender balance is a great improvement.

What role do you think women should play in STEM? I think women should play an equal role, the same as men, in the disciplines of STEM. Knowledge is available and the same for everyone, despite gender. As a general experience in Trento I have never experienced any difference in treatment. I was surprised when I saw that they were really putting effort into this improving this discrepancy between genders at the workplace. I won the funding by VRT and they are trying to encourage female governors and associates. If the leader of this funding were female they would give and even higher score to the participant.

Have you seen or experienced a difference in the way you are treated, while working as a woman in an academic environment and/or in industrial companies? Back when I was in China I didn’t experience any kind of discrimination. I would say it’s because of the great people I work with. In every lab I’ve worked in there haven’t been any problems for me. Only your skill and competence are viewed and judged. On a more worldwide basis I don’t think there is much discrimination against women in the lab. Globally, skills override gender.

Do you remember what profession you wanted to pursue when you were a teenager, like me now? Yes I remember. I’ve always wanted to become a scientist from a young age. I’m still far from becoming a scientist, seeing as I’m still a researcher. I have a friend who is closer to reaching that goal than I am. From time to time I try to ask for advice. I also learn from observing teachers. For this specific objective though, I think it’s an achievement that can be reached only by my own effort and perseverance.

What are your plans for the near future? How long until you reach your goal of becoming a scientist? I think it’s going to be even more difficult to become an accomplished scientist in the future. There will be many difficulties in my path that I’ll have to surpass. Honestly, I don’t think stopping here and remaining a researcher would be so bad, but I also always remind myself that contributing to the scientific world is of great importance. It’s a way to help resolve problems and to be remembered in history. To successfully contribute, I should become a scientist. It’s a hard path, and usually not everyone can see it to the end.

What is your opinion on maternity leave? All the female scientists I have interviewed have brought up maternity leave as one of the main unresolved issues preventing from reaching gender equality in the workplace. It’s a very common issue among all female researchers I guess. I hope there will be more support in all work environments for all female individuals dealing with maternity leave. To be able to change and improve this view around maternity leave for females more globally, all of society should support the cause.