International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Paving the Way for Gender Equality
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, observed annually on February 11, signifies a global commitment to advancing gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
Established through the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution 70/212 on December 22, 2015, this day underscores the importance of ensuring women’s full and equal participation in scientific pursuits. This article delves into the historical backdrop, challenges, and commendable efforts associated with the commemoration of this significant day.
Navigating Challenges in STEM
Throughout history, women have grappled with underrepresentation in science and technology, facing persistent challenges in pursuing STEM careers. While the 1960s to the 1980s witnessed a gradual increase in women obtaining science and engineering degrees, progress plateaued from the 1980s onwards.
Social barriers, encompassing societal expectations for women in domestic roles, early marriage, and discriminatory practices in the labour market, have acted as impediments to women’s access to education and careers in STEM, particularly in developing regions like Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean.
Contemporary Hurdles and Regional Disparities
In the present day, social barriers to female participation persist, taking the form of pervasive gender biases. Studies in the United Kingdom indicate that after the compulsory participation age, girls are less likely to receive encouragement to study physics.
Regional variations contribute to disparities, with the United States experiencing lower enrollment and attraction to scientific education, while the Arab world witnesses high enrollment but confronts career and social barriers hindering further participation.
United Nations Resolution: A Catalyst for Change
To address these challenges, the United Nations took a momentous step by adopting resolution 70/212, designating February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This resolution aligns with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, underscoring the goals of quality education and gender equality.
Leading the charge in implementing this day, UNESCO and UN Women collaborate with governments, intergovernmental organisations, civil society, universities, and corporations to champion and celebrate women’s contributions to scientific fields.
Annual Commemorations: Unveiling Themes and Initiatives
Annually, the United Nations convenes the International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly, bringing together representatives from member states, international organisations, the private sector, and leading scientists. Co-sponsored by various nations, the assembly revolves around a central theme, guiding discussions and initiatives for the year.
Themes Over the Years:
2016: “Transforming the World: Parity in Science”
2017: “Gender, Science and Sustainable Development: The Impact of Media – From Vision to Action”
2018: “Equality and Parity in Science for Peace and Development”
2019: “Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth”
2020: “Equality in Science, Technology and Innovation: Global Trends and Challenges”
2021: “Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society”
2022: “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”
2023: “Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance. Sustain. IDEAS: Bringing Everyone Forward for Sustainable and Equitable Development.”
For 2024, the 9th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly’s main theme is: “Women and Girls in Science Leadership, a New Era for Sustainability,” with the subtheme: “Think Science … Think Peace.”
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science stands as a powerful reminder of the strides made in achieving gender equality in STEM fields and the ongoing challenges requiring collective efforts to overcome.
Through annual commemorations, focused themes, and collaborative initiatives, the global community continues to champion the cause, inspiring future generations of women and girls to pursue and excel in scientific pursuits.
As we celebrate this day, it is crucial to reflect on our achievements and reaffirm our commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable environment for women and girls in science.