UN chief stresses equal access to females in science education

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UNITED NATIONS, Feb 12 (APP): United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged greater investments in teaching science, technology, engineering and math to all women and girls as well as equal access to these opportunities.
“For too long, discriminatory stereotypes have prevented
women and girls from having equal access to education in science, technology,engineering and math (STEM),” Guterres said in his message for International Day of Women and Girls in Science, marked annually on Feb. 11.
“As a trained engineer and former teacher, I know that these stereotypes are flat wrong,” he said, explaining that they deny women and girls the chance to realize their potential – and deprive the world of the ingenuity and innovation of half the population.
“On this International Day, I urge commitment to end bias, greater investments in STEM education for all women and girls as well as opportunities for their careers and longer-term professional advancement so that all can benefit from their ground-breaking future contributions,” he said.
Earlier this week, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization released its UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030.
‘Female engineers and computer programmers wanted,’ is the main message of the report, which shows that women are increasingly graduating with life science degrees, but still rare in engineering and computer science, especially in developed economies.
“An analysis of computer science shows a steady decrease in female graduates since 2000 that is particularly marked in high-income countries,” it states.
The share of women graduates in computer science between 2000 and 2012 slipped in Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“This should be a wake-up call,” UNESCO said. “Female participation is falling in a field that is expanding globally as its importance for national economies grows, penetrating every aspect of daily life.”
The share of women working as engineers is also higher in some developing countries, with increases observed in sub-Saharan and Arab countries. Women in the United Arab Emirates, for example, have benefited from national polities that promote training and employment of Emirati citizens, and in particular women.
In her message on the Day, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called for empowering women and girls to learn and research.
“We must raise awareness about the work of women scientists by providing equal opportunities for their participation and leadership in a broad spectrum of high-level scientific bodies and events,” Ms. Bokova said, calling also for mentoring opportunities for women.
In 2016, UNESCO and the L’Or’al Foundation launched the manifesto For Women in Science, to engage governments and stakeholders in promoting the full participation of girls and women in science.
For its part, UN Women noted that science and technology offer unique opportunities for women and girls to overcome a number of the barriers they typically face. For example: mobile money has empowered and transformed the lives of millions of women previously thought to be – unbankable – by enabling them to directly access financial products and services.
Women with skills in science and technological fields can help improve vital infrastructure such as water and power supply, and in doing so ease the responsibilities that women and girls carry of providing unpaid care work for the household.
Similarly, Internet and mobile technology can help bridge barriers to education for the 32 million girls who are out of school at the primary level and the 29 million at the lower secondary level, explained the main UN entity on women’s empowerment and gender equality.