GCC leader, Dr. Mar Cabeza, receives the 2021 Maikki Friberg Equality and Equity Award

The Maikki Friberg Equality and Equity Award for efforts to promote equality at the University of Helsinki was given to University Lecturer Mar Cabeza, together with AGORA research centre.

Dr. Mar Cabeza is a Lecturer in Conservation Science working at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences of the University of Helsinki. She is well-known for paying special attention to equity and diversity in her work, and for leading the Global Change and Conservation lab, one of the most inclusive, gender-balanced and culturally diverse research teams at the University of Helsinki. She has spearheaded numerous initiatives to make our University more diverse and more international, facilitating sensitivity and inclusion of different cultural work and leadership styles within our Faculty.

Dr. Mar Cabeza has gone to great lengths to ensure cultural, racial and gender diversity within her research team. Since 2007, at least 24 different nationalities (from all inhabited continents) have been represented in her lab. Additionally, her research team has managed to achieve a commendable level of gender parity over the years (i.e., 41 men, 43 women, one non-binary).

Dr. Mar Cabeza has always advocated for educational approaches focused on equity as a crucial strategy to combat structural racism in academia, as well as self-reflection on the distinct mentoring needs of students from different cultural backgrounds. As a result, Dr. Mar Cabeza was awarded in 2011 with the Prize to the Best International Teacher in recognition of her efforts in designing culturally-responsive teaching. Dr. Mar Cabeza has long been interested in capacity building in the Global South, having contributed to train generations of conservation biologists in several countries, such as Kenya, Madagascar and Brazil. Since February 2021, she directs the Doctoral Programme in Wildlife Biology, where she is striving to promote a philosophy of multi-cultural diversity.

Dr. Mar Cabeza has always championed the idea that diversity results in better, more impactful, and more innovative science. Dr. Mar Cabeza is also a member of the HELSUS Global South research stream, and of the Africa Programme of the University of Helsinki. Her unwavering dedication to working towards a more inclusive working community has been awarded in several occasions. For instance, in 2019, she received the HELSUS Sustainability Champion award.

Throughout her career, Dr. Mar Cabeza has acted as a role model on gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation issues, encouraging the participation of women, as well as ethnic and sexual minorities, in a field that is overwhelmingly male, white and heterosexual. Dr. Mar Cabeza has addressed diversity issues in a holistic, respectful and pragmatic manner, not centring her activity solely in one of the multiple dimensions of diversity but, instead, creating opportunities and safe spaces in which researchers of different nationalities, genders, races, ethnicities, creeds, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds could grow together as scientists, and learn from each other.

By systematically challenging unconscious biases, and leading action to make research and education accessible to everyone, Dr. Mar Cabeza is breaking much ground in achieving the promise of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of Helsinki and beyond.