The award-winning professionals were: M.ª Ángeles Ibarrondo, director of Health Research and Innovation of the Basque Country; María A. Blasco, Scientific Director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO); Susana Marcos, Director of the Visual Optics and Biophotonics Laboratory of the Optics Institute of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC); Gema Climent, R&D Director of Nesplora; and Ana Maiques, CEO of Neuroelectronics.
The Spanish Federation of Healthcare Technology Companies, Fenin, has held the second edition of the Smart Woman Forum & Awards, an event in which the contribution of women in the field of innovation in Healthcare Technology has been recognised, the need to advance towards gender equality has been made visible and five women have been awarded for their recognised professional careers. The ceremony, held in the auditorium of the Carlos III University of Madrid, was attended by representatives of Fenin and the Healthcare Technology industry, together with representatives of the Public Administration and healthcare professionals.
The meeting was chaired by Raquel Yotti, Secretary General for Research at the Ministry of Science and Innovation and winner of the award for the Best Professional Career in Innovation in the previous edition, who gave the keynote speech. Yotti stressed that “clinical researchers play a fundamental role in our national health system, but over the last decade we have seen how the number of people who choose to develop clinical-scientific itineraries is decreasing, and the drop-out rates are disproportionately high among women, especially at crucial moments in their professional careers. It is therefore necessary to identify the additional barriers that women face, such as lack of institutional support, limited access to career development opportunities, the persistence of gender stereotypes and the distribution of care in the family “.
The Regional Minister of Health of the Community of Madrid, Fátima Matute, also wanted to show her support for innovative female talent in healthcare by attending this event. “The Smart Woman Forum & Awards give visibility and a face to our best female researchers, as well as recognising the importance of their work for the development of our healthcare system”. Likewise, the Regional Minister thanked “the role of leading companies in innovation and healthcare technology as a key part of the system”.
The event was also attended by Gotzone Sagarduy, Minister of Health of the Basque Country, who congratulated Marian Ibarrondo – this year’s winner – and all the professionals at Osakidetza and the health research institutes, while describing the award as “an endorsement of the policies promoted in this field by the Department of Health and the Basque Government as a whole. Our objective,” she added, “and at the same time our obligation as public servants, is and must continue to be not to lose sight of the fact that innovation and research in health must be oriented primarily towards the needs of the health system and the population”.
According to Margarita Alfonsel, secretary general of Fenin, “this event aims to recognise the role of women in the health system and is another example of the Federation’s commitment to highlight and promote bio-health R&D&I with a female accent, in line with the desire to advance equal opportunities for women”.
Meanwhile, from the Regional Ministry of Education, Science and Universities of the Community of Madrid, Ana Ramírez de Molina, Vice-Minister of Universities, Research and Science, has indicated that “it is necessary to increase the presence of women in Science and in leadership positions in the business and productive sectors“. “In our Regional Ministry we are committed to promoting Science and the role of women within it”, she added.
Patricia Cuenca, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Equality at Universidad Carlos III Madrid, pointed out that “it is very important for the University, within the framework of collaboration with Fenin to promote research, entrepreneurship and innovation, to have the opportunity to host and support a new edition of the Smart Woman Forum & Awards, which shows our commitment to gender equality”.
Five exemplary careers
During the meeting, five awards were presented to women with recognised careers in Healthcare and Innovation, in different categories.
Sergio Muñoz, director of Innovation, Digital Health and Emerging Technologies at Fenin and coordinator of the Spanish Platform for Innovation in Healthcare Technology – the driving force behind these awards – emphasised that “this event is an example of the role played by the Platform as a driving force for progress in the Healthcare Technology sector, also in the field of equality, which can only come from innovation and requires the collaboration of all the agents that make up the healthcare system, from the hospital sector, both public and private, academic and industrial”.
The biologist M.ª Ángeles Ibarrondo has been distinguished with the ‘Award for the Best Professional Career in Innovation’ for her contributions to health and technology projects. Among other responsibilities, she has been Director of Innovation at the Science and Technology Park of Bizkaia – a benchmark for innovation in Europe – and currently holds the position of Director of Health Research and Innovation at the Basque Government’s Department of Health. For Ibarrondo, “the award is recognition of the work of thousands of innovators and researchers and, in the Basque case, mainly female researchers, who are the true architects of the Basque Country’s position at the forefront of scientific progress and innovation, also in the field of health”.
The ‘Award for the Best Scientific Direction and Management’ has been granted to María A. Blasco, Scientific Director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), for her extensive professional career, which includes establishing her own research group at the Spanish National Biotechnology Centre and directing the Molecular Oncology Programme and the Telomeres and Telomerase Group at the CNIO. “This award represents the desire to move towards a more egalitarian, fairer society. At the CNIO, gender equality and diversity are a priority, a principle that we apply to each of our decisions, and that contributes to making us more productive and also happier in our work,” she said.
Meanwhile, Susana Marcos, a research professor at the Institute of Optics of the Scientific Research Council (CSIC), has received the ‘Best Researcher Award’ for her work on non-invasive techniques for the evaluation of optical and structural properties of the eye. Currently, one of her projects aims to develop an intraocular lens that emulates the eye’s ability to focus continuously to combat presbyopia, which affects 209 million people in Europe. “The Smart Woman Awards represent the smart approach to science: asking the right questions and innovating with new methodologies to address an unmet clinical need, and aim to set an example for other female researchers to follow,” said Marcos.
The `Best Scientific Development Award’ went to Gema Climent, psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist. Her contributions include the development of four neuropsychological assessment tests, a bullying prevention system with a video game and a pain distraction and anxiety management model. He has also collaborated in the implementation of technological applications and video games to prevent sexist behaviour among adolescents. In 2008 he founded Nesplora, a company specialising in technology and cognitive assessment through artificial intelligence. As Climent pointed out, “this recognition highlights the importance of a responsible approach in the implementation of technological solutions in the field of health, generating confidence in both professionals and end users”.
Ana Maiques, CEO & co-founder of Neuroelectris, has been recognised with the ‘Best Female Entrepreneur Award’ for the creation of this company that develops and markets neuroscience-related products, including a wireless electroencephalogram and a non-invasive brain stimulation device to help patients with epilepsy, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. For Maiques, this recognition “reinforces the need for unwavering determination, resilience and self-confidence to overcome gender barriers” and she wanted to dedicate it “to all the women entrepreneurs who continue to inspire and pave the way towards a more inclusive business world”.
The role of women in the reindustrialisation of the healthcare system
Alongside the presentation of the awards, a round table discussion entitled ‘The role of women in the reindustrialisation and transformation of the healthcare system‘ was held, moderated by Margarita Alfonsel, with the participation of Julio Mayol, Professor of Surgery, editor of Surgery and secretary of the BJS Society; Cristina Castejón, researcher of the MAQLAB Group and assistant vice-rector of Entrepreneurship and Own Research Programme of the University Carlos III of Madrid; and Idoia Muñoz, managing director of the Basque Health Cluster.
This event is part of a series of activities to create awareness and information about the gender gap in the Healthcare Technology sector that form part of the project “Innovation in Healthcare Technology and Women” launched by Fenin to advance gender equality in the healthcare sector. This initiative was born in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 5: Gender Equality).