The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is a critical opportunity to raise awareness and promote gender equality in science and technology.
Sciences and technology have traditionally been fields studied and developed by men. It is typical for faculties of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to be predominantly attended by men all around the world. However, worldwide awareness of gender inequalities has encouraged decision-makers to pay more attention to public policies that improve girls' and women's access to all domains of science.
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science
On February 11th, the United Nations (UN) celebrates the achievements of women and girls in science and encourages more girls to enter the field, but also highlights the gender disparities that still exist in science and technology, with women being underrepresented and facing numerous challenges such as unequal pay, limited access to education and career opportunities, and a lack of representation in leadership positions.
It is important because studies on the future of work estimate that more than half of all employment opportunities have not yet been created and will primarily be in the technology field. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require that by 2030, governments and institutions should prioritize gender equality. This goal emphasizes the significance of increasing investment in research and technology development. Despite this, worldwide spending on GDP in this area is still insufficient.
Therefore, the UN and its member states have called for increased investments in science education and gender equality initiatives to address these disparities and ensure that women and girls have equal opportunities to participate and contribute to the scientific community. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is a critical opportunity to raise awareness and promote gender equality in science and technology.
The data shows high levels of inequalities:
The lack of gender diversity in STEM activities is a major concern as it limits the potential for innovation and progress in these fields. It also perpetuates economic inequalities, as women are often underrepresented in high-paying science and technology careers; they usually have 60% fewer economic opportunities than men. Inequalities will substantially increase if this gap is not solved and the work revolution moves rapidly.
Furthermore, according to the Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Latin America, the data about women in science highlights the persistent gender disparities in the field. Despite some progress, women are still underrepresented as researchers – only 30% of researchers worldwide are women – and in prestigious awards such as the Nobel Prize – only 6% of Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women-. The disparity is particularly pronounced in technology and engineering university programs, where women are enrolled at low rates – 3% and 5%, respectively -, compared to health-related sciences where they are more likely to be working – 70% of women in the Sciences fieldwork in this sector-.
Latin American women scientists that inspire other women:
Some women in science are aware of the gender barriers that women typically experience when conducting research or working in the sciences. Andrea Guzmán is a great example of a woman in science who is working to raise awareness about gender barriers in the field and support other women. Her creation of the CHIA (Colombians Doing Research in Astrophysics) platform showcases the importance of amplifying the voices and achievements of women in science, especially in underrepresented communities such as Colombian women scientists.
Besides, commemorating the achievements of women like Bonnie Prado Pinto and Aracely Quispe – engineers who have been able to work at NASA- or Kathrin Barboza and Idelisa Bonelly – biologists who discovered new species and promoted the protection of biodiversity – on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an excellent way to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women in these fields.
These women serve as role models and inspire others to pursue careers in science and technology. The fact that they have succeeded despite the gender barriers and disparities that persist in these fields is a testament to their talent, hard work, and determination.
What can be done?
Investment in education and improving access to employment opportunities for women in science and technology is critical to increasing their participation in these fields and addressing the brain drain that many Latin American countries are experiencing. Governments and academic institutions can take several steps to create a more favorable environment for women in science and technology, including:
- Providing scholarships and financial support to girls and women who want to pursue careers in these fields.
- Offering training programs and mentorship opportunities to help women develop the skills and networks they need to succeed in science and technology.
- Encouraging academic institutions to promote diversity and gender equality in their hiring practices and to create a more inclusive work environment for women in science and technology.
- Investing in research and development in fields that are dominated by women, such as health sciences, to help women build careers in these areas.