Margarita Alonzo

Head of Substantive Examination Section

Ministry of Economic Affairs

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Find something that you love and don’t be afraid to fight for your dreams.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am biochemist and microbiologist and work on intellectual property for the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Guatemala. I am the Head of the Substantive Examination section were we analyze patents, the novelty and inventive step for innovations mostly related to biotechnology or pharmaceutical area. In my free time, I am the deputy chair at the national board for a political party. We advocate to have more women in politics and women as decision makers because in Guatemala we are underrepresented, less than 3% of Mayors are women, and girls need to see new role models with women leading the change for our country starting with local councils. That’s why we are developing training to capacity building to have more women running in the next elections and promote reforms to electoral law to reduce violence against women in politics and increase female representation in Guatemala.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I always loved science, since I participated in the International Mathematic Olympiads in High School. I had a full scholarship to study biochemistry and I enjoyed learning about genetics and how amazing is to use microorganisms for food industry or agriculture. When I graduated I found that all the innovations need to be presented as patents, and working on the intellectual property world gave me the opportunity to learn about new technologies every day.

It’s a challenging area because it is a mix of science and law, especially during pandemics when we need to consider the implications of patents and public health, in order to guarantee the access to medicine to our population. So almost 9 years ago we found a political party because the only way to have real changes is participating. My main motivation is to help women to run for local councils, to lead the change in their communities and support them in their way to become elected. I think is the only way to improve girls lives and reduce the gender gap.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

Being a scientist in politics in a country which doesn’t invest in science is challenging. I started as a kind of translator helping with statistics when we were building our political party. That gave me the opportunity to be close to the party leaders and became elected as member of the national board. We don’t have long term political parties in Guatemala and I was privileged to have different fellowships with NDI and Vital Voices to learn how to lead been a woman, but must important how can I help other women to get motivated and participate in politics. I’ve been supported by an amazing team, who gave me leading positions in the party and elected me as deputy chair to have the opportunity to be the voice for other women in our organization. The main obstacle is still the double discrimination: being a woman and a politician, people don’t trust in politicians and because of that, we don't have the best people running for public seats. We are trying to change that, encouraging more women to run and promoting reforms to electoral law to be sure that we will have more women represented.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

Fight for all the things you want! I still remember when I was in school during a sports competition, I was disappointed because I was not good at all in sports but I was great in maths and science and I always wanted a mathematics competition. In high school I was more than excited when I was selected to participate at the maths olympiads, I was national champion for Science, Physics and represented Guatemala at the International Mathematic Olympiads, twice. I learned that there is always something where we are extraordinary, and we must use our talent in all the things we like. When I decided to get involved in politics I had the impostors syndrome, thinking what I was doing there if I am a scientist. Then I realized that some of the best politicians in history are scientists: Margaret Tatcher or Angela Merkel, so we do have role models but we are not aware of that! So to my young me and other girls, dream high and work hard because no one else is going to change your reality, it’s on you to make things happen!

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

Every day we learn something new! Working in the innovation world I have the opportunity to learn from all the new technology applied to public health, to end malnutrition and all the challenges that we are facing. The only good thing about pandemics is that finally the decision makers saw the importance to invest in science and I hope we will be able to promote more innovation policies with universities and research centers in Guatemala. But it's still a long way to go, that's why I want to mix my work as scientist with politics, to serve my country and lead public policies focused to change women's reality.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

Find something that you love and don't be afraid to fight for your dreams. It's always possible! It will take some time, it will take effort but all the sacrifices will worth it when you see your goals achieved. By the way, been a nerd doesn't meen stay in the lab or in the library, I'm a nerd with voice trying to give voice to more women in the public spaces, so please break stereotypes. You are unique!

INSPIRATION

I am inspired with the quote that the mom of Kamala Harris, current VP of the USA, "Be the first but not the last". We must fight to break stereotypes but also to be sure that the way will be able for more women in the future.

NOMINATE A WOMAN IN STEM

For multiple nominations, email hi@1mwis.com

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