NEW YORK/VIENNA/GENEVA, FEBRUARY 10 – The United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 declared Feb. 11 the International Day of Women and Girls in Science “to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”
Now in its fourth year, the event is going strong. 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 trainings, 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.
“It is disappointing that, in the 21st century, and in fields like the space sector, which is known for breaking boundaries, we are still not making the most of what women have to contribute. We have a lot to do to make ‘Space for Women’, and I am committed to getting it done”, said Italian astrophysicist Simonetta Di Pippo, an astrophycist with over 30 years experience in aerospace and a UN International Gender Champion. See her pledge: http://ow.ly/Oa9A50k9yhF .
Alessandra Lombardi, an Italian accelerator physicist at CERN in Geneva, works with linear accelerators, including the new Linac4 accelerator: “I was probably drawn to science as a child because of my fascination with the work of Galileo!”. At CERN she she provides guidelines for the design of linear accelerators, with special emphasis on their use in medical applications, such as hadron-therapy facilities.
She became fascinated by accelerator physics while studying physics at university. “I was very lucky that I got the chance to continue in the same field.” In her current role, she enjoys the balance of creativity and rigour: “There is a good balance between theoretical and practical work in what I do”.
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. (@alebal)