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Messenger: Women in STEM and Cultural Diversity

MESSENGER is one of the only 9 projects funded by the British Council to share ATHENA SWAN knowledge and experience with Brazilian counterparts.

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The MESSENGER project focuses on empowering women in science through mentoring and exchanging experiences. This phenomenal initiative, UK-Brazil Gender Equality Partnership is funded by the British Council (2021-2022) and led by Professor Alexandra I. Cristea.

MESSENGER aims to reduce the gender disparity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as seen all over the world by promoting the participation of women in undergraduate courses in STEM both in basic and higher education.

The UK-Brazil Gender Equality Partnership Initiative is a ground breaking collaboration aimed at promoting gender equality in science, technology, higher education, and research institutions in Brazil. The partnership brings together Durham University, represented by Professor Alexandra I. Cristea and Professor Sue Black , with two Brazilian institutions: Federal University of Amazonas represented by Professor Elaine Harada Teixeira de Oliveira ( and Santa Catarina State University represented by Professor Isabela Gasparini ( The goal of the initiative is to shape institutional policies and practices that will drive progress towards gender equality in these fields.

This Initiative is structured in 7 main phases, each featuring a variety of interactions and activities, to create an inclusive and supportive environment for girls and women in STEM. The goal is to ensure that they feel welcome, safe, and confident in their studies and future careers, and have access to the resources and support they need to succeed.

Image: Programme discussion, 2021-2022 with some UK and Brazilian representatives
Image: Kick-off workshop in March 2022, Introduction by PI Professor Alexandra I. Cristea

An Informative Session on Mentoring and Reducing Gender Disparity in STEM Fields

At the MESSENGER Workshop on in May, 2022, Donna Herdsman of Talking Talent and Professor Sue Black gave a comprehensive presentation on how mentoring can help bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. The session was interactive, involving students and professors from Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM) and Santa Catarina State University (UDESC). It provided a valuable opportunity for participants to engage with the speakers and discuss ways to promote gender equality in STEM.

Image: Mentoring Workshop, May 2022, with Donna Herdsman (Home – Talking Talent ( and Sue Black. May 24, 2022

Brazilian Professors Explore the Cutting-Edge of Computer Science at Durham University

In July 2022, two Brazilian academics, Professor Isabela Gasparini and Professor Elaine Harada visited the Department of Computer Science at Durham University to learn about Athena SWAN initiative and its implementation. They were impressed with the department’s fast-paced progress and in-depth research in the field of computer science.

During the MESSENGER Meeting (July 21st, 2022), Rachel Archbold, the Head of EDI at Durham University, delivered an engaging presentation on the Athena SWAN initiative, discussing the university’s journey and experience in implementing and practicing it. Currently, Durham University holds a Bronze Award from the Athena SWAN Charter. Professor Sue Black, an EDI expert, also spoke about the ongoing efforts to adopt the Athena SWAN Framework at the departmental level.

On the following day (22nd July, 2022) Isabela Gasparini and Elaine Harada talked about the efforts of their respective institutions in promoting gender equality. Two Durham University students, Laila Alrajhi and Jian Mingyue, also shared their experiences as women in STEM fields. Their unique perspective significantly enriched the discussion on diversity and inclusion in STEM during the meeting.

Thursday, 21st July   
12:30-13:0030minsParticipant arrival and lunch 
13:00 -13:1010 minsAlexandra. I CristeaChairing and Introduction to Athena SWAN
  ([email protected]) 
  Deputy Dean FSc. Durham University 
13:10-13:3020 minsRachel ArchboldAthena Swan a journey in application and practice
  ([email protected]) 
  Head of EDI. Durham University 
13:30-13:4010 mins Q&A
13:40 -14:0020 minsSue BlackAthena SWAN in Computer Science
 ([email protected]) 
 Tech. Evangelist Cs. Durham University 
14:00-14:1010 mins Q&A
14:10-14:4030 mins General Discussion
14:40-14:5010 mins Closing statement
Friday, 22nd July UDESC 
12:30-13:0030minsParticipant arrival and lunch 
13:00 -13:1515minsOverview of Santa Catarina State University,Video streaming
  Luiz CoelhoIntroduction and Welcome from UDESC
  ([email protected]) 
  Acting Dean of UDESC 
  Antonio SousaWelcome from Technological Science, UDESC
  Dean Technological Science UDESC 
  ([email protected]) 
13:15 -13:2510minsIsabela GaspariniGreetings and initiatives from Brazil.
  ([email protected]) 
  Santa Catarina State University 
13:25-13:305 mins Q&A
13:30-13:4010 minsMini presentation, Jian MingyueWhy you should consider an Undergraduate STEM Major.
  Durham University Student 
13:40-13:455 mins Q&A
13:45-13:5510 minsMini presentation, Laila AlrajhiWhy you should consider a Postgraduate education in STEM
  Durham University Student 
13:55-14:005 mins Q&A
 14:00-14:1010minsVideo streamingOverview of Santa Catarina State University
14:10-14:2010 minsElaine HaradaGreetings and initiatives from Brazil.
  ([email protected]) 
  Federal University of the Amazonas 
14:20-14:255 mins Q&A
14:25-14:5530 mins General Discussion
14:55-15:005 mins Closing statement
Meeting Agenda. July 2022
Image from the Messenger project workshop in Durham. July 2022

Durham University Professors Tour Brazilian Universities in September 2022

As part of the 6th phase of the MESSENGER Project, Professor Alexandra I. Cristea and Professor Sue Black visited various universities in Brazil, including Sao Paulo University, University of Santa Catarina (UDESC), Joinville and University of the Amazonas, Manaus.

The meeting at Sao Paulo University (20th September, 2022) aimed to exchange best practices and explore ways to enhance the participation and success of women in STEM fields in Brazil. The discussions also focused on the Brazilian Equality Framework, similar to the Athena SWAN framework, and the initiatives implemented at Sao Paulo University’s C4AI. More ideas on the ways to foster diversity and inclusiveness in artificial intelligence.

Alexandra I. Cristea and Sue Black shared their experiences and insights from their work at Durham University, and discussed ways to incorporate the Athena SWAN principles in Brazilian universities.

Anarosa Brandao, Renata Wassermann, Fabio Cozman, and Armando Toda from Sao Paulo University, who were in attendance, also shared their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for promoting gender equality in STEM in Brazil.

Meeting Agenda at Sao Paulo University. 20 September 2022.

  • Messenger Project Description
  • General Introductions
    • Who, role?
    • What would would want to get out of this?
  • What is Athena SWAN?
  • Initiatives at Durham university
  • Brazil Equality Framework Principles
  • Sao Paulo Initiatives at the Center for Artificial Intelligence – AI research for underserved communities project
Image: MESSENGER meeting in Joinville. University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. 21 September 2022.

Exploring Gender Equality in STEM: An Event at Santa Catarina State University (UDESC)

On the 23rd of September 2022, the Santa Catarina State University (UDESC) hosted a thought-provoking event centered around gender equality in the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The event was graced by distinguished guests, Professor Alexandra Cristea and Professor Sue Black from Durham University.

The event kicked off at 15:30 with the opening remarks, followed by presentations from Professor Alexandra Cristea and Professor Sue Black on the latest developments in gender equality in STEM. The session continued with a presentation from the Scientific initiation group, who shared an overview of their project and analysis of the female dropout rate in computer science.

Next, the Catarinas Project was presented, highlighting its history and actions. The event also featured a talk on “Towards the Conception of Guidelines for the Design of Gamification under the Optimism of the Feminist IHC” by Karine Alessandra Córdova and “Recommender Systems: What do you really like?” by Nathalia Locatelli Cezar.

The event ended with a mini-presentation on a game designed for teaching computational thinking to neurotypical children and those with intellectual disabilities by Matheus Soppa Geremias and Taynara Dutra. The session concluded with discussions and closing remarks at 17:30.

MESSENGER meeting in Joinville, University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. 23 September 2022

Meeting Agenda, Santa Catarina State University (UDESC). Tuesday, 23 September 2022
15:30 – Opening of the event
15:35 – Professor Alexandra Cristea
15:50 – Professor Sue Black
16:05 – Scientific initiation group – Project overview and analysis of female dropout in Computer Science Maria T. S. Santos, Laís P. Van Vossen, Daniella Vasconcellos, Guilherme T. Borchardt, Roger Venson Jr, Eric Silveira
16:20 – Catarinas Project – presentation, history, actions Naiane Marcon, Julia Llorete
16:35 – Towards the Conception of Guidelines for the Design of Gamification under the optimism of the feminist IHC Karine Alessandra Córdova
16:50 – Recommender Systems: What do you really like?
Nathalia Locatelli Cezar
17:05 – Game for teaching Computational Thinking for neurotypical children and those with intellectual disabilities Matheus Soppa Geremias, Taynara Dutra
17:20 – Discussions
17:30 Closing

Bringing Together Experts and Students: A Recap of the Successful MESSENGER Meeting at the University of the Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil.

The MESSENGER meeting held (26th & 29th September, 2022) at the University of the Amazonas in Manaus was a great success, bringing together experts and students from various fields to exchange knowledge and ideas.

The meeting (26th September, 2022) began with an opening ceremony at noon, followed by a talk by Professor Alexandra I. Cristea on the topic of technology and education. Professor Sue Black also gave a talk, highlighting the importance of encouraging more women and underrepresented groups to pursue careers in STEM fields.

Fabíola Nakamura spoke about Women in STEM at the University of the Amazonas, and Giulia and Lorena shared their experiences as computer science students. The discussions were lively, and participants took a coffee break to network and continue the conversations.

On September 29th, Alexandra Cristea returned to the stage to discuss her research and the importance of internationalization in the field of technology. After her talk, participants had the opportunity to ask questions and further engage with the speaker.

Image: Students, University of the Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil

Overall, the MESSENGER meeting in Manaus was a great opportunity for attendees to learn from experts and peers, and to engage in discussions about the future of technology and education. We look forward to the next MESSENGER meeting and continued growth and collaboration in the field.

Image: MESSENGER meeting in Manaus, University of the Amazonas, Brazil. 27 September 2022

MESSENGER meeting in Manaus, University of the Amazonas, Brazil, 26.09.2022

  • 14:00 – Opening
  • 14:10 – Alexandra Cristea talk
  • 14:40 – Sue Black talk
  • 15:10 – Fabíola Nakamura (Women in STEM at UFAM)
  • 15:40 – Giulia and Lorena (Experiences as CS Students)
  • 16:10 – Discussions and coffee break
  • MESSENGER meeting in Manaus, University of the Amazonas, Brazil, 29.09.2022
    14:00 – Opening
  • 14:10 – Alexandra Cristea (Research and Internationalization)
  • 15:00 – Q&A
MESSENGER meeting in Manaus, University of the Amazonas, Brazil. 29 September 2022
Women In STEM T-shirt created by the UFAM team for the MESSENGER Project
A close-up, showing the maps of Brazil and the UK, and our project title. We think this sums it all up! Thank you so much, everyone!

Reflecting on the Success of the MESSENGER Project: A Look at 2022 Initiatives

It is a pleasure to report that we had the privilege of hosting Prof. Rafael Ferreira Mello, Prof. Elaine Harada, and Prof. Isabela Gasparini in Durham for our first and final project meeting of the year. The meeting took place on January 24th, 2023, and kicked off with a presentation by Prof. Alexandra I. Cristea, who highlighted the successes of the MESSENGER project initiative in 2022.

The morning session also featured a video presentation by George A. Koulieris, the EDI Committee Co-Chair at Durham University, who shared his experience with the Athena Swan project in the Computer Science Department. The highlight of the morning session was the presentation of Women in Science initiatives from universities in Brazil. Prof. Rafael Ferreira, Prof. Elaine Harada, and Isabela Gasparini shared their experiences and initiatives from UFRPE, UFAM, and UDESC, respectively. The morning session concluded with a Q&A, followed by general discussions and the closing statement.

The evening session began with a tea and coffee break, followed by a presentation by Tahani Aljohani, a Ph.D. graduate from Durham University, who shared her experiences with Women in Science initiatives. The MESSENGER project brought together professionals in the field and provided a unique opportunity to share their experiences and knowledge related to the Athena Swan project. Researchers, academics, and students gained valuable insights and information.

24 January (Morning)
09:45 -10:0015 minsParticipant arrival and refreshment 
10:00 – 10:15      15 mins      Alexandra I. Cristea
([email protected])
Deputy Executive Dean Faculty of Science,
Durham University
Chairing/ highlights of MESSENGER Project Initiative in 2022    
10:15 – 10:20     5 mins    Video presented by George A. Koulieris ([email protected] )
EDI Committee Co-Chair,
Durham University
Our experience with Athena Swan, Computer Science Department    
 10:20 -10:50      30 minsRafael Ferreira
([email protected])
Professor. CESAR School, Brazil  

Elaine Harada
([email protected])
Federal University of the Amazonas  

Isabela Gasparini
([email protected])
Santa Catarina State University
Women in Science initiatives from universities in Brazil:

10:50 – 11:0010 mins Q&A
11:00 – 11:1515 minsGeneral Discussions/Chat 
11:00 – 11:1010 mins Closing statement
24 January (Evening)
15:00 – 15:1515minsTea and Coffee break 
15:15 -15:2510 minsTahani Aljohani
([email protected])
Ph.D. Graduate, Durham University  
Women in Science initiatives: My experience
15:25 – 15:305 mins Q&A
15:30 – 15:4515 minsGeneral Discussions/Chat 
15:45 – 15:5510 mins Closing statement
Meeting Agenda. Tuesday 24 January 2023.

Brazil Equality Framework Principles