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.
Recent statistics from the labor market data shows that in the STEM sector, the representation of women remains quite low, however, there has been a gradual increase. Women make up to 26% of the STEM workforce and this representation is expected to become equal only in 2070.
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. Nearly half, or 48%, of women in technology and STEM positions indicate experiencing discrimination in some manner during the recruitment or hiring process.
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.
According to Women in Tech Network, it would take 133 years to bridge the economic gender gap. This stands true not only to STEM related jobs, but the overall global workforce. According to a report by Deloitte, the participation of women in STEM related jobs rose to 35% in 2021. This means that the ratio of men to women in tech firms is roughly about 3:1.
Fostering a diverse workforce is essential in narrowing the economic gender divide. It is imperative, especially now, to be aware of the technology sector’s insufficient diversity. Research indicates that diverse companies exhibit greater innovation, creativity, and productivity, ultimately earning higher revenue. To address this, companies must not only recruit diverse tech professionals but also establish, encourage, and honor diverse perspectives by cultivating a welcoming and supportive atmosphere.
There is always a flip side to everything, and we must acknowledge the rise in 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.
The IT workforce has witnessed a substantial surge, mirroring the swift advancements in technology, computing, and AI. Despite an impressive addition of over 80,000 women in IT from 2019 to 2023, the gender representation still stands at a modest 19%. According to the National Science Foundation, a growing number of women are attaining STEM degrees, and they are closing the gap with men in obtaining bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering subjects. A recent survey showed that as of 2023, 26% of women are working in tech-related jobs. Here are some of the most recent stats of women in tech-related roles.
Speaking of India, there has been an increase in the number of women applying for STEM related programs and degrees. The proportion of women enrolling in STEM courses in India rose to 32% in 2021, from 22% in 2019.
The government of India in September 2022 launched a new initiative called Women in Engineering, 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. 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.
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 wide, however, with improved opportunities, women and girls can create an impact in the STEM world.
Information related to companies and external organizations is based on secondary research or the opinion of individual authors and must not be interpreted as the official information shared by the concerned organization.
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