International Day of Women and Girls in Science

On 11 February, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. To celebrate this Day, from ClearFarm we would like to share the experiences of women involved in the project.

Our first interview is with Dr. Elisabetta Canali. She is Associate Professor at the Department of Veterinary Medicine of Università degli Studi di Milano. She is a veterinarian with more than 15 years’ experience in animal welfare research. Within the ClearFarm project, she leads the pilot validation in the dairy cattle value chain.

In this interview, she shares with us her perspective and experiences as a woman scientist.

How did you decide to become an animal welfare researcher?

I chose to study veterinary because I have always liked animals and I was interested in their behaviour and how they cope to different breeding systems. I started to work on   these research topics. It seemed a logical and necessary step forward to work on welfare of cattle and other domestic species.

Briefly, what excites you about your work?

On the one hand to be free to seek answers to the increasing complex questions relating to behaviour and welfare of our livestock animals, and have the possibility to work in a stimulating environment thanks with to the people I work with in Milan and also with researcher of different backgrounds and countries. On the other hand, I try to convey the importance of curiosity and knowledge to the students.

What do you want to achieve with your research in the ClearFarm project?

Being able to develop an up to date information system on the welfare of dairy cattle and pigs and on the environmental sustainability of the farms which could be useful for farmers and consumers. Making precision livestock farming tools to improve the welfare of dairy cattle and pigs.

Have you encountered difficulties in your career due to being a woman?

I worked from the beginning in a research group made up mostly of women but I had no problems not even with men colleagues. However, the birth of a child or other personal changes that create new commitments and needs are not always immediately understand or accepted.

What can we do to break the glass ceiling in science?

The quality of women’s work is no longer in question but the access to top position is not easy, even if there are some encouraging signs. We need more policies that reconcile the different possible roles of the women and that do not force them to give up any of these roles.

Family life, teaching and research. Is it realistic?

It must be realistic and can be achieved, but it requires great tenacity and above all concrete support from people is required in the work place and from institution (effective tools for managing work and family) and also in the family.