The role of today’s women in science, technology and innovation
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated on February 11 to recognize the critical role that women and girls play in science and technology. It was in 2015 that the UN General Assembly decided to mark this day. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also called the UN Women. The UN Women is a global champion for gender equality that upholds women’s human rights. This year, the day will focus on the role of women and girls in science who contribute to the sustainable development goals.
Women and girls are underrepresented in fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Professions in STEM fields are majorly dominated by men, and women find it difficult to match up to them in these areas. According to a 2022 report by World Bank, women account for only 28% of engineering graduates and in fields like artificial intelligence, only 1 on 5 professionals are female.
Gender bias and stereotypes are among the major contributors to suppressing women from exploring careers in STEM fields. Pressure to conform to societal norms, forced marriages and childbirth are among the daunting reasons why women in STEM face challenges. In most households, women are majorly responsible for running the family, and this burden restricts them, to an extent, from pursuing their dream career.
This discrimination is faced especially by marginalized women such as indigenous and afro-descendant women, girls from disadvantaged groups, elderly women and those who belong to the LGBTQ+ community, according to the United Nations.
On the whole, there is a barrier to women dreaming for successful careers in their field of interest. It is often said that a family and a nation’s betterment lie in the education of women. Even though the situation is improving, there is a long way to go.
The brighter side
There is always a flip side to everything, and we must acknowledge the rise is awareness about educating women in STEM fields. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the achievements of women in science, for instance, Professor Sarah Gillbert, who led the development of the Oxford/Astra vaccine against Covid-19.
Speaking of India, there has been an increase in the number of women applying for STEM related programs and degrees. The gender gap in STEM narrowed from 23% enrollments in 2019 to 32% in 2021.
The government of India in September 2022, launched a new initiative called Women in Enginering, Science and Technology (WEST). This program will cater to women in the STEM background and empower them further to contribute to the field of science and technology. Women who are part of this program will get a platform for pursuing research in basic or applied sciences frontier areas of science and engineering. This skill development program will help upskill women for posts like lab technicians and fill gaps in the R&D infrastructure of the country. It also provides a platform for women to showcase their research, achievements, and exchange ideas on taking the country forward in science, technology and innovation.
How online education is helping
Online education is a boon in the world of technology, considering that it caters to people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and geographic locations. It has specifically impacted the lives of women, who otherwise cannot attend college or university physically. Working women, homemakers or women who are entrepreneurs can take up an online degree or course without hampering their other commitments. It also gives them a sense of financial and personal independence to pursue a course of their interest or choice.
Online education has helped women overcome geographical barriers and has allowed them pursue an online course from any university in the world. This will help break the existing gender bias and promote a better, inclusive society.
Even though we have milestones to reach, more women and girls are getting the same opportunities as men and boys. They are breaking societal barriers and making a mark in underrepresented fields like science, technology, engineering and other technical roles. The gender gap is alarming, however, with improved opportunities, women and girls can create an impact in the STEM world.
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