Women researchers say 'digital for all'

May 18, 2023

The advancement of technology and innovation has brought about significant progress in various fields, and digital technologies are proving to be a powerful tool in advancing gender equality and empowering women.

At a roundtable, women researchers at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University shared their perspectives on promoting women’s participation in the digital economy.

Professor Yu Song, Director of the XIPU Institution, says digital transformation encourages more women to participate in education, health, economy, society, and politics. However, there still is a gap in women’s digital adoption compared to men.

Professor Song explains a lot of issues have caused the digital gender gap. The lack of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is a significant issue in higher education.

“As a demonstration site for gender equality in Jiangsu province, XJTLU has set a great example in inspiring more women to enter STEM. Women slightly outnumber men among the master’s students pursuing STEM degrees at XJTLU, and among the doctoral students pursuing STEM degrees, 40% are female.

“Having more women in STEM is an effective way to eradicate gender stereotypes and gender bias in our digital space. It helps involve more women in the ongoing digital transformation, thereby contributing to gender equality.

“I believe we have a responsibility to create a more gender-equal environment for female researchers. I also hope senior academics can provide greater support to younger scholars, especially females.”

From left to right:  Yue Zhou, Professor Yu Song, Professor Li Yang, Dr Wen Liu, Dr Siyue Yu, and Jinyan Wang

Dr Wen Liu from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the School of Advanced Technology says the growing participation of women in scientific research can enhance the diversity of research teams and bring more fresh perspectives to academia.

Dr Liu also believes there are four key ways to develop and maintain research motivation: discovering one’s interests, tackling real-world problems faced by industry, seeking advice from others, and staying curious.

“We need to follow our hearts. When we look up at the stars and think about the origin of the universe, we can feel driven to conduct research. When we delve into the microscopic world, we can also find questions that keep us researching.”

Professor Li Yang, Associate Dean of Research & Impact at the School of Science, believes that three key factors contribute to success in research at XJTLU: the inclusive research environment, the financial support provided by XJTLU, including research funding and student scholarships, and effective cooperation among team members.

“I need to take care of my children while managing a research team and a PhD student team. Balancing my life and career is not easy, so it’s important to learn to manage one’s time and plan in advance.”

Yue Zhou (left) and Professor Yu Song (right)

XJTLU’s research success depends on a well-established system for academic staff training and strong financial support. To promote high-quality research, XJTLU has established the Research Development Fund (RDF) and the Research Enhancement Fund (REF), investing about 48.29 million RMB and 2.03 million RMB, respectively, since the University’s founding in 2006.

XJTLU also offers Postgraduate Research Scholarships (PGRS) to attract excellent PhD students, enhance research teams, and increase innovation capability. To date, the University has funded 488 PhD projects, totalling 185 million RMB.

Jinyan Wang was enrolled in one of the joint PhD programmes launched by XJTLU-JITRI Academy. She has an academic mentor from XJTLU and an industry mentor who works in an enterprise. The mentorships have equipped Wang with cutting-edge theoretical knowledge and the ability to solve practical problems faced by the industry.

“XJTLU provides us with a rich database, advanced lab equipment, and various workshops and skills training programmes. The environment here is also inclusive and diverse, which I enjoy very much.”

Yue Zhou, a PhD student at International Business School Suzhou, says it was the encouragement from the academics at XJTLU that made her consider the possibility of pursuing a PhD and set her on her journey as a researcher.

“I hope my stories about doing the research I love can inspire more young people to find and enjoy their passions,” says Zhou.

Dr Siyue Yu graduated from XJTLU with a PhD in 2022 and joined XJTLU’s School of Advanced Technology as a lecturer this year. She says “female researcher” is a label that should be removed.

“Doing research is just a choice we made after considering what we want, and the same applies to male researchers.”

Dr Yu also shared some tips with younger students:

“I faced a lot of challenges in the first two years of my doctoral study, and later I learned to break down large tasks into smaller ones and complete my project by working to reach each of the small goals.

“Things can be quite hard at the beginning, but we will finally find the right way to do them and achieve something if we don’t give up on ourselves.”

The women researchers provided these comments at an event held by the XJTLU Graduate School and Research Management Office titled “Women in Research at XJTLU – Inspiring and Empowering”.

Professor Zhoulin Ruan

At the event, Professor Zhoulin Ruan, Vice President of Academic Affairs, also sent his wishes to XJTLU’s female students and staff and congratulated them for their achievements.

“XJTLU has been committed to making itself a research-oriented international university that contributes to socio-economic development in China and around the world.

“Approximately 50% of our staff members are female. About 70% of XJTLU’s master’s students and 50% of the PhD students are female. XJTLU’s success would have been impossible without the support of our female students and faculty members,” he says.

By Liu He

Translated by Xueqi Wang

Edited by Xinmin Han and Patricia Pieterse

Photos by Ganjin Yang and Junhe Sheng

May 18, 2023


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