Women and girls are underrepresented in science

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On 11 February, the United Nations and global partners, including women and girls, marked the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Why does it matter?

Recent studies suggest that 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not yet exist. While more girls are attending school than before, girls are significantly under-represented in STEM subjects in many settings and they appear to lose interest in STEM subjects as they reach adolescence. Debunking the myths that girls do not like the sciences and other and gender stereotypes, along with investment in teacher training, gender-responsive technology and innovation can reverse these trends.

With Sustainable Development Goal 9, part of the Global Goals that world leaders agreed to in 2015 with a deadline of 2030, countries around the world have pledged to “build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”. Yet, a look at where funding is allocated a different picture. At present, only 1.7 per cent of the global GDP is dedicated for research and experimental development.

As the fourth industrial revolution starts, women still have less than two-third of the economic opportunity that men have. The jobs of the future will be driven by technology and innovation, and if the gender divide in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is not bridged soon, the overall gender gap is likely to widen.

Less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women. With too few women in decision making roles and higher-paying STEM jobs, the gender gap in STEM has deep implications for the future of global economy. For instance, 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. Improved recruitment, retention and promotion policies, as well as continuous learning and up-skilling for women can go a long way towards closing this gap.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science is every day–not just 11 February–so, lets change this narrative always. Join us in celebrating women and girls who are leading innovation and call for actions to remove all barriers that hold them back.

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