Rebeca Duque Estrada
University of Stuttgart, Germany/Brazil
Rebeca describes herself as an architect and maker, who stems from Brazil, and is currently doing her Phd in robotic fabrication and fibre structures at the Institute of Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart. “Somehow I really found something that pushes me and that makes me be challenged. I am never in my comfort zone.“ As a research group, they have even participated in a two-floor fibre pavilion done for the Venice Biennale in 2021.
“Really trust your intuition and your guts for taking the opportunities you want to take and don’t rely these decisions on anyone else. You can see it as selfish, but it is your future. […] Don’t be so hard on yourself. It is important to learn how to value what you have achieved.”
“I still am a woman in technology trying to make things and trying to break this gigantic gender gap that exists in our field”, Rebeca says.
She has her own strategies for doing so: teaching is really important to her, and she likes to pass on the knowledge in synthesized and easily understandable ways. This is also mirrored in her earlier workshops on wearables, as the work with clothes is a “door” to empower people to “try and learn something new”. In her younger career, the support and trust of her professors, who believed in her supporting the beginning of a laboratory and course for parametric design at the university in Rio, was formative for both the research in Brazil as well as her later career decisions. Her later female tutors in her master studies inspired her:
“I saw that it is not impossible, if they are there, it shows that you can also be there. So I feel that representation and these role models play a very important role”.
Now, she is in the position where students ask for her guidance, and works hard to support them as much as possible. In particular, she tries to help women and minorities approaching her for support, as cis men are raised to have more confidence in working with the technological sphere. In her current working group, Rebeca is the only woman.
She says she tries to prove herself “less and less everyday, but I still have to, it is still like a process, proving to have the right to be where you are and to do what you are doing.”
She has also started a project called “Robotika” on Instagram that features female professionals working in Robotics. Despite her awareness of the “gender-gap in technology” Rebeca is optimistic about all the improvements happening. While she would love to see a “massive change” to push diversity and inclusion, she also believes that local instruments, like e.g. quotas can have a large and long term effect.
Message to her younger self:
“Really trust your intuition and your guts for taking the opportunities you want to take and don’t rely these decisions on anyone else. You can see it as selfish, but it is your future. […] Don’t be so hard on yourself. It is important to learn how to value what you have achieved.”.” All of her steps came with some sort of an inner push.” I do value and recognize the privilege that I come from, but from time to timeI try to value the walls that I have broken, and that helped me to be where I am now. And I can say I am happy. I really love what I do.”