UN Women and ESO start training programme for Chilean women to coat astronomical mirrors
1 December 2021
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has partnered with UN Women to train seven Chilean women in key astronomical technical skills, which will allow them to expand their job opportunities and gain skills to work in top astronomical observatories under the Second Chance programme (Tu Oportunidad) in Chile.
This programme, a UN Women initiative, is being implemented at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Northern Chile’s Antofagasta Region in collaboration with ESO. It aims to prepare a group of women, six from the city of Antofagasta and one from Viña del Mar, to expand their knowledge and improve their job opportunities and technical skills through astronomy.
The training programme is provided under the framework of the agreement between ESO and UN Women signed in 2020, and will give the women technical training in coating techniques for telescopes that are used in professional astronomical observatories.
The coating of large telescopes, a process that provides a new reflective layer to a mirror, is a complex and important process done at an astronomical observatory. It requires the coordination of tens of people with a variety of skills, with trainees acquiring knowledge of maths, physics, coating technology, handling of industrial chemicals, operation of cranes, and skills to operate in laboratories and clean areas.
The Tu Oportunidad programme identified seven women with an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) with full high school education and basic knowledge of maths and physics. During the coming weeks, the group will be conducting their training programme with regular trips to ESO’s Paranal Observatory.
“For UN Women, generating synergies between public and private actors and organisations from civil society is fundamental. In this sense, the alliance with ESO brings us closer to science and technology, proving a real possibility of training and employability for participants in the Tu Oportunidad programme. We hope that more women become interested in these disciplines, since despite their relevance, women have been constantly underrepresented in several STEM fields,” said María Inés Salamanca, UN Women Country Programme Coordinator in Chile.
ESO’s staff, together with the Chilean EMPLEA foundation and the LINKES company, will train students through practical tutoring sessions, as well as online and face-to-face classes over a 14-week period.
Once training is completed, the students will receive a certificate to help open job opportunities for them, especially in or around large astronomical observatories, in addition to other industries in the region that require technicians with these specific skills.
“Decentralisation with a gender-based approach allows a more equitable distribution of knowledge development in the Antofagasta Region. If this is developed specifically in STEM areas, it helps integrate women from Antofagasta into a traditionally male-dominated job market” said Bárbara Núñez, ESO Regional Relations Officer, during a visit of the group to the observatory.
In the future, the women participating in Tu Oportunidad could carry out the coating of unique mirrors such as those on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, each 8.2 meters in diameter, or the 798 segments that make the 39-metre mirror of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, which is currently under construction in the Antofagasta region, and will be the world’s biggest optical telescope when it sees its first light in 2027.
Tu Oportunidad Programme
UN Women’s Tu Oportunidad programme is a worldwide initiative which is currently developed in six countries: Mexico, India, Australia, Cameroon, Jordan, and Chile, and whose objective is to economically empower women who have not completed their formal education.
This programme is implemented through an e-learning platform with courses and contents oriented towards the development of personal skills to promote employability, empower business ventures, and support taking of free examinations to complete high school education.
ESO Chile Press Officer
Tel: +56 2 24633151
Tel: +56 9 6208 9947
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