Closing the STEM gender gap: Feb. 11 marks 4th-annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 11, 2019; 8:49 AM
On Feb. 11, the fourth-annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science recognizes and celebrates the achievements of women involved in the sciences, while encouraging younger generations of girls to face new scientific challenges.
Celebrated globally since a resolution of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in December 2015, the day serves to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, reminding all that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities.
The 2019 theme focuses on "Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth." The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has noted that inclusive green growth offers an optimistic, realistic alternative to countries looking for new sources of growth that make economic, environmental and social sense.
Although progress has been made around the globe in inspiring and engaging women and girls in the sciences, the UN reported that this group continues to be "excluded from participating fully in science."
"Over the past 25 years, the UN has drawn the attention of the international community to the serious gender gap that affects science such that it has become a priority of many countries and international political institutions," said Princess Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite, executive director of the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT) and founder and president of the Women in Science International League.
"Yet, the advancement of women and girls in science has not only stalled, but has started regressing with a widening of the gender gap in science," El-Hashemite said in a statement.
Fewer than 30 percent of researchers worldwide are women, according to UN Women, which could have deep implications for the global economy's future with too few women in decision-making roles and higher-paying jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Findings from the World Economic Forum have shown that "women stand to gain only one new STEM job for every 20 lost, in stark contrast to men, who gain one new STEM job for every four lost."
Research from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institute revealed that women are underrepresented throughout the innovation pipeline; they earn 57 percent of all college degrees, but only 35 percent of the degrees are in STEM fields.
A study in 2017 noted that women made up 29 percent of all weathercaster positions, with females comprising 8 percent of chief meteorologist positions.
Significant progress toward closing the gap can be made with improved recruitment, retention and promotion policies and continuous learning and up-skilling for women, according to UN Women.
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"Women's and girls' voices and expertise in science, technology and innovation are vital to bring solutions to the disruptive change in our rapidly evolving world," said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in a joint statement. "We urgently need to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and actively promote gender equality in science, technology and innovation careers."
Leaders will hold a two-day forum at the UN Headquarters in New York City from Feb. 11-12, with a focus on the 2019 theme.
"Since its inception in 2016, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science Forum has been one of the UN's flagship events, and a key event for women and girls in science, science experts, policymakers and diplomats to gather and share their vision, expertise and best practices to achieve Equality and Parity in Science for Sustainable Development," El-Hashemite said.
For the second year, Girls in Science will have their own panel designed and chaired by young changemakers and girls-in-science advocates from around the globe to share their vision on how they can utilize science to achieve sustainable development goals, she said.
The goal of the 2019 forum aims to "develop a technical program that will showcase best practices and solutions to move ‘Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth' into the mainstream discourse, and to identify implementation gaps and create an International Framework and Action Plan for Investment in Science for Inclusive Green Growth," according to El-Hashemite.