International Day of Women and Girls in Science: why it matters

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Yesterday, February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science was celebrated. How much do you know about it? 

Woman holding test tubes in a laboratory.

Woman holding test tubes in a laboratory. / Photo: Unsplash / Composition: LatinAmerican Post

The Woman Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez Toro

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Leer en español: Día Internacional de la Mujer y la Niña en la Ciencia: por qué es importante

Every year, since 2015, February 11 marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science as a way to empower women and girls from all over the world to achieve full and equal access and participation in science.

As read on Women in Science Day org, the 5th year aniversary´s theme is the importance of equal investment in science, technology and innovation in the digital era for inclusive Green growth with special focus on Agriculture, Technology and Digital Economy. 

Why is this day important?

According to UNESCO, at the moment just 30% of researchers worldwide are women, and only 35% of all STEM students are women. However, even if they pursue their careers, research shows that they are published less, paid less, and do not advance as fast as their male counterparts. 

As Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women said in statement yesterday, science and innovation are essential for the jobs of the future and can bring life-changing benefits to those who are usually left behind: people with disabilities, the elderly and women and girls living in remote areas.

“We need to break gender stereotypes that link science to masculinity and expose young generations to positive role models; women engineers, astronauts and researchers. We need a dedicated strategy not only for increasing the representation of women in the talent pipeline for STEM jobs, but also for ensuring that they thrive, incentivizing them to remain in these high-paying jobs and institutionalizing organizational cultures that enable women to advance in these fields”, he added. 

In India, for example, among 280.000 scientists, engineers and technologists in research development institutions, only 14 are women, as read on India Times. A paper titled “Why are some STEM fields more gender balanced than others?”, authors suggest that the lack of sufficient early exposure to STEM related areas compared to boys in early childhood, the masculine nature of the sector and gender-gap in self-efficacy could be some of the reasons. 

Also read: What is 'ethnoporno' and how does it affect indigenous Mexican women?

How was it celebrated? 

Among several activities in different countries, the Royal Academy of Science International Trust held an assembly that ends today, February 12, at the United Nations Headquarters.

As read on Women in Science day, the four main objectives of the assembly are: 

1.    Ensuring participation of women and girls in science with a cultural regional focus.

2.    Addressing the link between Digital Economy Agri-Tech and gender inequality.

3.    Addressing Nexus of Women in Science and Fourth Digital Revolution

4.    Tackle Regional/ Local Labor Markets Interdependence and Constraints for Women in Science.

How to engage young women and girls in STEM?

A guide by the Women´s Foundation Of Colorado highlights these strategies: 

1.    Empower girls to lead teams so boys and girls alike recognize them as creators.

2.    Let them get closer to female role models and mentors so they can see themselves in those positions. 

3.    Uncover your hidden biases. If you are a parent examine how you treat girls and boys and consider if you offer different types of experiences to girls that do not foster STEM skills.