Every year on 11 February, the United Nations, partners worldwide, women and girls mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Why does it matter?
Recent studies suggest that 65% 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 Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (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 trainings, gender-responsive technology and innovation can reverse these trends.
Ahead of this international observance, researchers at UNU-MERIT were asked for their views on this major issue. Dr. Micheline Goedhuys said: “The time is right for women to make a career in science. Increased awareness about a gender gap in science provides new opportunities for women. My advice is: take that chance, trust that you can do it, and don’t worry about practical issues – they will be solved along the way.”
Dr. Maty Konte added: “Science is gender neutral and needs you. Girls, you are as good as boys in letters and numbers. Be determined and inspired. Follow your ambition and remove any obstacles on your road to success. Science starts today. Tomorrow you may not catch up with your male peers.
“By nature, science is not for a specific gender. The gender gap that exists is not because of science itself but because of other aspects such as social norms or people’s perception that girls are good in letters and not in numbers or girls running away from scientific specialisations. Additionally, in some developing countries — because of household work — some girls spend less time preparing their homework and then fail to succeed in scientific topics. All these issues are created by people and societies, not by science. My forthcoming book looks at how removing economic and social constraints increase women’s opportunities and well-being in various areas.”
Read more about the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on the UN Women website.
This post was updated on 14 February 2019, with additional comments by Dr. Maty Konte.
The opinions expressed here are the authors’ own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.