“I’m a mountaineer and climber,” says Nadia Estela Díaz Triste, product specialist, Oncology. “A curious thing is that I’ve met many women who have also dedicated themselves to science — colleagues in the field — who share a love for this sport.”

People

Celebrating women in STEM: Latin America's changing landscape

Three BMS colleagues from Mexico, Brazil and Argentina all felt a pull to pursue science and technology. They share how they defied stereotypes to turn their fascinations into meaningful careers.

December 07, 2023

Nadia Estela Díaz Triste

Product Specialist, Oncology, Mexico

“Someone once told me, ‘When you’re in love, you want to tell everyone.’ And I think that’s what happened to me with science.”

Nadia Estela Díaz Triste says she fell in love with science when she was a child, watching her grandmother take care of her and other members of the family whenever anyone was sick. This sparked a curiosity in her about the “why” behind remedies for illnesses.

Now a product specialist in oncology for BMS in Mexico, she’s still nurturing this curiosity.

“You never stop learning,” she said. “I think that's what I fell in love with: you are always discovering things.”


Subscribe to Our stories alerts
 

Beyond just relevant information about Bristol Myers Squibb's therapeutic areas and innovation, Our stories offer a window into the work our employees do every day for patients.

Nadia, holding her work bag, folders and coat, grabs the door handle to close her front door and begin the work day.
Díaz gestures with her hands while meeting with a colleague in the office. A laptop sits on the table between them.
Nadia stands outside a hospital entrance as a patient is rolled in on a stretcher.
Díaz sits at a desk with a doctor during a sales meeting. They flip through and review a pamphlet together.
Díaz reaches her hand behind her back into a chalk bag hanging on her waist before climbing a rock wall at a gym.

Defying the stereotype

Díaz wanted to study pharmacy despite the stereotype she noticed while growing up: that scientists were mostly men.

“Sometimes it is very difficult to believe in an image of a woman scientist, a woman researcher,” she said. “In Mexico, there are still cultural and social barriers, gender biases, and machismo,” she explained, referring to a widespread sense of masculine pride and superiority.

Díaz says in the environment in which she grew up, many families and educators encouraged women to pursue professions outside of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), orienting them toward traditional gender roles. In Mexico, just three of 10 STEM professionals are women.[1]

The pay gap is another obstacle, she explains. “Some companies like BMS already have equal salaries, but many do not.”

Support at pivotal moments

Díaz received a master’s degree in pharmacology from CINVESTAV, the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute, in Mexico City. There, she had the opportunity to conduct and publish new research on the effects of curcumin, found in turmeric plants, on gastric lesions.

“I’m very proud of that discovery,” she said.

What propelled her forward in the field from the start, Díaz said, was the support of her family and educators.

“Pharmacology is a complicated profession with its own adversities, but I’ve really enjoyed it because my parents always supported me at home. They encouraged me to study whatever I wanted, and I had very good teachers who believed in me.”

Not every woman receives this kind of all-around support, Díaz says, but all that matters for any young woman interested in science is that she believes in herself and what she can achieve.

“They should not let themselves be influenced by comments made by others,” she said. “They should believe in the abilities they have.”

‘A generation that broke stereotypes’

Díaz’s team at CINVESTAV left a mark in another way, too: women slightly outnumbered men in her group. “To have met these women in this institution and to have spent time with them filled me with great joy and pride,” she said, “because I think we are a generation that broke stereotypes.”

Díaz says that 10 years ago, there were few women in senior positions, but that little by little, women’s participation in STEM fields and in leadership roles is being encouraged. She says BMS is setting an example for others in the industry and across her country to motivate women to study science and share their experiences.

“BMS publicizes the achievements of successful women so that they are known and recognized,” she said. “This is what’s missing a little bit in Mexico — making the achievements of women scientists and other successful women more visible.”


Roberta Cristina Nogueira Corigliano

Associate Director, Information Technology, Brazil

Roberta Cristina Nogueira Corigliano says she didn’t choose IT; IT chose her.

“As a girl, I was always the outsider,” Nogueira said. “I loved science and math and physics.” She loved reading and watching science fiction, “dreaming to live in the future,” she said. "I kind of challenged the system to be studying all those areas.”

She started out in finance with a degree in economics, but her love for problem-solving ultimately drew her toward IT. She had the natural ability, but Nogueira says she lacked the technical skills. So she dove into professional development courses on IT while working her 9-5 job in finance.

But entering a STEM field as a woman in Brazil had its challenges. Nogueira said she had to brace herself when entering a meeting, knowing she would be one of few women — sometimes the only woman — in the room. “At that time, you didn’t find women in any leadership position and IT was not the exception,” she said. “You didn’t have many examples or other women to share or talk with.”

Diversity nurtures creativity

Nogueira acknowledges that gender diversity is slowly and steadily improving. Latin America is unique, with among the highest ratios of women researchers; but overall, women remain greatly underrepresented across STEM fields. Nogueira says that perhaps there’s a desire among her fellow Latinas to be part of the solution to some of the region’s problems.

“We have inequities — healthcare is just one area. To solve these problems, you need to be creative,” she said. “And creativity is very present, I can assure you, in Brazilians, and that makes a difference in looking for different ways to solve the same problem.”

In Nogueira’s field of Information Communications and Technology (ICT), just 15% of recent graduates were women. There are obstacles that are slowly being broken down — from financial independence to educational opportunities to cultural norms.

“I think it’s embedded in the education that we receive at home and at school that [STEM] is not for you,” she said. “So, it really requires some passion, some incentive for girls to start [in STEM] and not drop off.”



Patients on the BMS website in Brazil can chat with Bibi, the avatar designed by Nogueira’s team.

Conquering self-doubt

The biggest barrier today, Nogueira believes, is in what women tell themselves. She says she’s still susceptible to self-doubt.

"You think technology is something so hard that you don’t even try to pursue it,” she said. “It’s like, ‘that is for someone else and not for me.’ It’s a challenge for our women and it’s partly self-imposed.”

At BMS, she leads a team dedicated to finding ways technology can help us work smarter or make the process easier for patients.

In 2022, in partnership with the Commercial and Corporate Communications departments, her team won an intercontinental tournament on innovation, representing Brazil. They created BMS’ first chatbot with an avatar — a young Black woman named Bibi — that helps answer questions for patients on the website.

Nogueira also mentors for a nonprofit called Mulheres CIO (MCIO), providing guidance for women making career transitions. And she was Brazil’s sponsor for the B-NOW People and Business Resource Group (PBRG) at BMS from 2021 to 2023.

‘My best software’

Nogueira’s setting an example not only in Brazil’s IT space, but also at home. Both her stepdaughters are in STEM fields, one a civil engineer and the other finishing medical school.

“And I have an 11-year-old son who is the best project in my life. He’s the best software I ever made — the most difficult,” she said with a smile, “but my best.”


Nogueira said that her son sees her passion for technology, and to him, it’s only natural that she would dedicate so much of her life to her career. On the flip side, she makes sure that her professional network understands that she is dedicated to her responsibilities as a mother.

“If you view my LinkedIn, the first phrase is ‘I am a proud mom,’” she said. “It’s key for women to look for places to work that value them, like BMS does.”


Diana Zubiri

Associate Director, RCO Clinical Operations, Clinical Site Monitoring, Argentina

“It was my dream, you know, to be a scientific researcher.”

Diana Zubiri wanted to be a scientist, and to get there, her mother told her she had to study. In Argentina, the University of Buenos Aires was the top institution, and undergraduate studies were free. 

Zubiri shows her son Santino some of the tools once used by pharmacists, at a museum in the University of Buenos Aires’s pharmacy and biochemistry faculty building.


“So, you always have the possibility to study,” Zubiri said. “And that was the possibility that my mother wanted for me. My mom didn’t go to university, my father didn’t go to university, so it was really a dream for my whole family that I could go to university.”

Reality check for a young researcher

But as she pursued postgraduate studies for a career in pharmacy, she found that conditions for researchers were challenging.

“Argentina has always struggled with economic difficulties, and in the early 2000s, to perform basic research at the university, we weren’t paid enough. That was okay,” Zubiri said. “But also, sometimes there was a lack of lab resources, like chemical reagents or equipment.”

“I thought, after getting my PhD, I’d have to move to another country to pursue my dream,” she said.

Then, one day, she got a call from a former lab colleague who worked at BMS.

“She said, ‘I have a job for you. Come and join the R&D department at BMS.’”

“I didn’t know much about clinical research,” Zubiri says about her decision to join the R&D team at BMS. “In my early career, it was never mentioned that it was a possibility for us.”

Making a difference for patients

Zubiri started out in clinical data management, with the right resources to do her work. More importantly, she realized that she’d found a company mission she could get and stay behind.

“We are here to help patients with diseases where there might not be other treatment options,” she said. “Really, for me, this was so important — to feel that you’re part of a bigger team, and you can make a difference for patients.”

Nearly 20 years later, Zubiri leads a team of more than 20 clinical trial monitors across the Latin America region, together witnessing milestones in clinical studies in oncology and other therapeutic areas. They’ve also been there for each other’s personal milestones.

“I joined BMS as a young married woman. I had kids, I went through a divorce, and always my colleagues were there for me.”

Decades later, Zubiri and her son tour the pharmacy and biochemistry faculty building where she spent six years studying for her degree and started her research career.

‘It’s not a choice you have to make’

Now a seasoned professional, Zubiri wants to be there for women earlier on in their careers. From 2020 to 2022, she was co-lead of the Argentina chapter of B-NOW.

“It was difficult for me, my first years being a mother and having a career also,” she said. “We’re in a much better position now than 20 years ago, but we have to keep working to tell women, ‘It’s not a choice you have to make: to be a mother or to have a career,’” she said. “You can do both.”

Always the data analyst, Zubiri studied metrics around gender equity not only at BMS, but across the industry and her region. She could see, in the data, how BMS was a top workplace for women, and how the options for working moms have continued to grow: parental leave, childcare support, flexibility to work from home.

As for Argentina, it has been a leader on several fronts. It was the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to incorporate gender equality into its national science, technology, and innovation (STI) plan. It was also the first — almost a decade ahead of its peers — to create a national network of women researchers.

That was in 1994, just as Zubiri was getting ready for university, to fulfill her mom’s dream, to fulfill her own dream, and become one of those researchers herself.

Read more from this series on BMS women in STEM around the world.

“It really was by chance that I ended up here at BMS,” she says, “but the main reason I've stayed 20 years here, in clinical research, is because we really make a difference — for patients to at least have the opportunity for another treatment.”

References:
 
[1] Source: Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO)


About Bristol Myers Squibb

Bristol Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. As global citizens, we work sustainably and responsibly to create a positive impact in the communities where we live and work.