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Friday, 07 August 2020

A career in research is subject to iniquity and comparative advantage: Prof. Dr Clivia Sotomayor Torres on diversity in Academia

In an opinion article recently published on Optics & Photonics News, ICREA Prof. Dr Clivia Sotomayor Torres, group leader at the ICN2, shares her thoughts about diversity in research and how gender, ethnicity and other sociocultural aspects can affect academic career paths.

Research and the academic world are not exempt from diversity issues, of course. And even though awareness is raising and actions are being taken, inequities are still likely to occur. Is Academia going in the right direction and making the needed moves to guarantee equal opportunities? ICREA Prof. Dr Clivia Sotomayor Torres, leader of the ICN2 Phononic and Photonic Nanostructures group, reflects on this controversial topic in an article published on the June 2020 issue of Optics & Photonics News.

“A career in research is like a project,” states Prof. Dr Sotomayor, and as such it requires “planning and prioritization”. It has a trajectory that, she adds, “is subject to unwritten, external factors, such as iniquity and comparative advantage, which can affect its progression.” Whoever wants to pursue an academic career has to learn to manage his or her own priorities, but also be aware of these external factors and take them into account in the planning.

According to Prof. Dr Sotomayor -- who is undoubtedly a very talented researcher with an excellent record of publications on high impact journals, relevant projects and recognitions (one of the latest being the ERC Advanced Grant, under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme) – within the currently prevailing University Market model, which sees education and research as a business, “women are likely to be disadvantaged at the retention or progression stage of their careers.” The key to avoiding such obstacles and guaranteeing greater diversity in Academia is that “institutions value and support different career patterns, based on personal choices prioritizing the various ‘projects’ along the way.”