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The International Day of Women and Girls in Science – Promoting Equal Access in STEM

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was established by the UN general assembly in 2015 to recognise the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.

Implemented by UNESCO and UN-Women and in collaboration with other institutions and civil society partners, the day is an opportunity to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. This year’s theme is “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19”, gathering global experts the main event will be online with panel sessions focussing on The impact of COVID-19 on the research and scientific careers of women scientists and Women scientists at the forefront of the COVID 19 research.

Innovations resulting from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are key to tackling some of the greatest global challenges from improving health to combating climate change, and innovations require a diverse pool of talent. Enhancing diversity is key to long-term economic growth and global competitiveness. 


A recent study by the World Economic Forum found that when it comes to the world of science women are in the minority. Less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women and this under-representation occurs in every region in the world. 


Not enough women are studying STEM related fields at higher education with the same study finding that 3% of students joining information and communication technology (ICT) courses across the globe are women. That improves slightly to 5% for mathematics and statistics courses. And it increases to 8% for engineering, manufacturing and construction courses.


Women in STEM updated a recent study into Higher Education choices using recent data from UCAS and findings from WISE and this was updated in light of the current pandemic it found that just 5% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women and that year on year core STEM subjects have seen only a small increase of around 1,000 female students. They also found that 74% of female students surveyed thought that diversity initiatives were either extremely or very important in the workplace. In the same white paper study, respondents stressed the important of these initiatives being properly researched and implemented and shouldn’t be a case of fulfilling quotas. 

“There is nothing more motivational to our girls than knowing they can change the world, if they first take the time to understand it. With climate change, the Hope Mission to Mars and the pandemic in 2021, it is crucial that girls around the world have access to  scientific knowledge to empower them to make their own life changing decisions.”
Linda Parsons, Deira International School, Educational Technology Lead

 

The theme this year of “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19” is so timely when the impact of COVID globally is still being discovered. An article in Forbes.com predicted that the number of new job openings would slow in November and December 2020 and with many countries in lockdown this trend looks to continue through the first part of 2021. ONS.gov reports that job vacancies are 31.5% lower than a year ago, interview process are taking longer and markets remain uncertain. With the recruitment of many roles, internships and placements being frozen there is a lack of opportunity for all graduates leading to increased uncertainty and competition in the job market. Women and STEM found that 60% of female graduates said that the COVID-19 pandemic had affected their future career prospects. 


Although there’s much to do to encourage and engage women in STEM there are some positives. WISE found that the STEM sector is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. From 2017, core STEM employment had increased by 6.3%, which equates to more than 6 times that of the total rise in the UK’s overall employment rate. In 2019, UK government data showed that there are now one million women working in core STEM occupations. Globally STEM occupations are expected to experience rapid growth in the coming decade.


“I have some good news for the people of Africa, we are at the verge—of a great resurgence. More breakthroughs in research and development, innovation, science and engineering will be done here in Africa if we marshal our resources and human capital right. Our job is to propel this development. 

This is why I am passionate about STEM education, it creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas. It is clear that most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science.”
Adetola Salau, Senior Special Assistant Education to the Governor, Lagos State, Nigeria    

You can find out more about the International Day of Women and Girls in Science here and you can join the conversation on social media using #WomenInScience 

Sources:

  • https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/02/stem-gender-inequality-researchers-bias/ 
  • https://www.stemwomen.co.uk/2021whitepaper
  • https://www.stemwomen.co.uk/blog/2021/01/women-in-stem-percentages-of-women-in-stem-statistics  
  • https://events.unesco.org/event?id=1008262432&lang=1033 
  • https://www.un.org/en/observances/women-and-girls-in-science-day 
  • https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/news/uk-on-target-to-reach-1-million-women-in-stem-by-2020-says-wise/ 
  •  https://www.forbes.com/sites/robinryan/2020/12/08/2021-career-predictions-and-new-trends/?sh=68e2eb966180 
  • https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-in-science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics-stem/