Mand Labs celebrates the intellectual power, strength and success of women who have dared to dream and achieve. We asked some of these women in STEM over email to share their words of wisdom on this UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
February 11 marks the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science . The purpose of this day according to the UN General Assembly, is to “achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls…”
Given that February 11 is now a movement recognizing the role of women and girls in science for sustainable development and economic growth, according to the UNESCO’s Groundbreaking report, the fact remains that girl STEM students in higher education across the globe account for only 35 percent and women researchers account for only 28 percent.
UNESCO figures for 2014-2016 also reveal that only around 30 percent of girl students select STEM-related subjects. Globally, the enrolment of girl students in information and communication technology is as dismal as 3 percent. The enrolment for manufacturing and construction is 8 percent and enrolment for statistics, math, engineering, and natural science is as low as 5 percent.
Seemingly, the number of women in science and engineering is going up, but men continue to outnumber. Based on research conducted by the US Chamber Foundation, the number of women graduates in the US accounted for only 6 percent compared to the 20 percent of the male graduates in core STEM.
Several studies point this dismal number to the fact that the gender gap begins as early as grade school.
Professor Yamuna Krishnan at the department of chemistry, University of Chicago, points out:
“Rooting out unconscious bias is essential to bridge the gender parity.”
The challenge lies in a society where girls are not encouraged to pursue science and math by parents, family, teachers, and friends. This influence plays a pertinent role in shaping beliefs and choices, not to mention the impact it has on their identity and behavior. Most of the girls grow up believing that they are not cut out for science subjects, thus opting for humanities and arts.
Chantelle Bell, co-founder, Syrona Women & 2018 Forbes Top 50 women in Tech, says:
“The most important factor required to bridge the gender gap would be to have more inspirational women at the forefront and connect women with children at a younger age.”
But the big question is how do we do that? Research shows that we can start at the very core by getting well-trained women teachers. It is a given that experienced and well trained teachers can make a life-altering impact on students. Female teachers in turn should get professional development opportunities to catalyze their passion and talent for teaching STEM.
Similarly, we need to include more girls and women in the STEM workforce as it is essential to build a stronger global economy with much wider perspectives and an environment that encourages acceptability and access.
Getting STEM-qualified women into top companies and attracting more women to the science, math, and engineering faculty of colleges and universities by introducing effective work-life policies and implementing mentoring programs are some ways to close the gender gap.
Women might be getting more educated than ever before, however, only 25 percent represent the community in STEM fields. So, to bridge this gap and take a step forward towards the UN goal “for achieving sustainable development and fulfilling the promise of the 2030 agenda to “leave no one behind”, we at Mand Labs believe that it is not just one day we should focus on working towards empowering women and girls, but it should be a concerted effort everyday.
On this UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, some women STEM leaders who have broken the glass ceiling and have made a mark for themselves share inspiring messages for young girls who want to foray into the world of STEM.
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