Mònica Ríos, psychologist and Information and Knowledge Society graduate

"The reference source Wikipedia is one the internet's most visited pages, but there is a proven and significant gender bias"

Mònica Ríos:

Mònica Ríos: "What I liked most about my first experience with the UOC was having a sense of control over my own learning process"

Mònica Ríos Martínez holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the UOC, a postgraduate diploma in Gender, Family Diversity and Technologies from the UB and a master’s degree in the Information and Knowledge Society, also from the UOC. Not only has she worked in a variety of areas related to mental health, education, the environment and administrative and cultural management, but she is also very aware of issues regarding gender equality. 

By Marian Antón

“We have to encourage more women to get interested in science and technology and to fight neurosexist mindsets”
How did you come to contact our University? 

I was studying Psychology at a brick-and-mortar university and found it difficult to balance work with my university studies. At that time, attending the UOC was the only viable, quality option that would allow me to complete my studies at my own pace.

And how was your initial experience? 

Since balancing study and work was what pushed me to come here, what I liked most was having a sense of control over my own learning process. At other times in my life when I’ve had the time to study on site, I’ve still opted to study online. The learning process is different, more thought-provoking, and I find that I enjoy it much more.

Was there anything you found difficult?

What I liked the least were courses where it was just me, especially the final few. This can create a certain imbalance of power  and you feel quite alone not having a peer in the classroom to share things with.

You also did a non-curricular internship at the UOC, didn’t you? 

Yes, in Psychology. It was a very rewarding experience and it helped me realize that HR was not for me. 

Afterwards you decided to continue and study on the UOC’s Information and Knowledge Society master’s degree programme. Why? 

What most drew me to the University Master’s Degree in the Information and Knowledge Society was its multidisciplinary nature. I thought it matched up perfectly with my psychology background and that, academically, I needed the tools that would help me understand all the social, economic, technological and cultural changes taking place, without falling prey to the determinism that has become prevalent in society with the consolidation of the internet. 

And what did you choose as the subject of your final master’s degree project? 

Certain areas, such as wikis, had not been as extensively analysed from a gender perspective, so I focused on the gender divide on Wikipedia. This reference source is one the internet’s most visited pages, along with Google, Facebook or YouTube, but there is a proven and significant gender bias. 

You’ve also participated in other cooperation initiatives organized by the UOC. 

Yes, this year the UOC’s Equality Unit held a series of events about the gender divide on Wikipedia to mark International Women’s Day, 8 March. Although they were all interesting, one in particular stood out: the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon held at the Apolo, a marathon to create, update and improve entries about women, feminism and art on Wikipedia. WikiWoman Ester Bonet taught those of us who didn’t know how to edit and we all worked together throughout the day in an unbeatable atmosphere. PlayGround did a piece on it here

As a student interested in gender equality, how do you think we can get more girls interested in STEM-related jobs? What are we doing wrong?

Feminist literature has documented and clearly stated that girls have been underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects since the 1970s. Structural barriers were identified, such as the type of education and socialization girls receive, which discourage them from studying STEM. Here the key factors are how gender and femininity are constructed and the debate around a rigid gender binary. The most feminized professions are usually care-related; from little on up we are told we have certain innate abilities, not to mention the cultural aspects involved when it comes time to choose , which can lead us to adopt neurosexist mindsets.

One of the solutions proposed is to encourage more women to get interested in science and technology. Different projects are under way, one of which is to bring female scientists and inventors out of history’s shadows. The edit-a-thons of local WikiWomen’s groups are doing just that, striving to improve the coverage given to women on Wikipedia in cities around the world.