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New Gender Benchmarking Study Finds Numbers of Women in Science and Technology Fields Alarmingly Low in Leading Economies
Numbers of women in engineering, physics and computer science are on the decline
New York, October 3, 2012 – In the first study of its kind, researchers have found that numbers of women in the science, technology and innovation fields are alarmingly low in the world’s leading economies, and are actually on the decline in others, including the United States. The study maps the opportunities and obstacles faced by women in science across the US, EU, Brazil, South Africa, India, Korea and Indonesia. It was conducted by experts in international gender, science and technology issues from Women in Global Science & Technology and the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, and funded by the Elsevier Foundation.
Despite efforts by many of these countries to give women greater access to science and technology education, research shows negative results, particularly in the areas of engineering, physics and computer science. Women remain severely under-represented in degree programs for these fields—less than 30% in most countries. In addition, the numbers of women actually working in these fields are declining across the board. Even in countries where the numbers of women studying science and technology have increased, it has not translated into more women in the workplace.
“These economies are operating under the existing paradigm that if we give girls and women greater access to education they will eventually gain parity with men in these fields,” states Sophia Huyer, the lead researcher and founding executive director of Women in Global Science & Technology. “This has dictated our approach to the problem for over a decade and we are still only seeing incremental changes. The report indicates that access to education is not a solution in and of itself. It’s only one part of what should be a multi-dimensional policymaking approach. There is no simple solution.”
The data show that women’s parity in the science, technology and innovation fields is tied to multiple empowerment factors, with the most influential being higher economic status, larger roles in government and politics, access to economic, productive and technological resources, quality healthcare and financial resources. Findings also show that women have greater parity in countries with government policies that support childcare, equal pay, and gender mainstreaming. One of the main findings is that few countries collect consistent and reliable sex-disaggregated data in all of these areas, which inhibits their ability to implement effective enabling policies and programmes.
“We found that the absence of any one of these elements creates a situation of vulnerability for economies that want to be competitively positioned in the knowledge economy,” Huyer says. “No one country or region is ticking off all the boxes, and some are falling dismally short. This is a tremendous waste of resources. We are wasting resources educating women without following through, and we are missing out on the enormous potential that women represent.”
“This broad and ambitious assessment is a critical starting point for measuring the participation of women and girls in science, technology and innovation in emerging and developing worlds,” said David Ruth, Executive Director of the Elsevier Foundation, “This study identifies key areas of national strength and weakness, and we hope it will help form the basis of evidence-based policy making and aid going forward.”
Spearheaded by Women in Global Science & Technology and the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, the report was funded by The Elsevier Foundation, which provides grant programs targeting women scientists in the early stages of their careers. It was also supported by futureInnovate.net, a non-profit that supports initiatives that strengthen innovation systems in Canada and around the world.
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Notes for editors
The full study, the Gender Equality and the Knowledge Society Scorecard, key findings, and graphical scorecards for each participating country, can be found at www.wigsat.org. Please contact Emma Knott for more information or to arrange an interview with researchers Sophia Huyer and Nancy Hafkin.
About the Researchers
As founding executive director of Women in Global Science & Technology, Sophia Huyer has published and spoken widely on international gender, science and technology issues policy, including Information Communications Technology (ICT) and social development. She is also research director of the Gender Advisory Board of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development and has acted as Senior Advisor to the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World.
Recently inducted into the Internet Society’s Internet Hall of Fame, Nancy Hafkin played a key role in developing Africa’s ICT infrastructure through her work with the UN Economic Commission for Africa. She also worked with the Association for Progressive Communications to provide email connectivity to more than 10 countries there. In 2006 she co-edited “Cinderella or Cyberella: Empowering Women in the Knowledge Society” with Sophia Huyer, and in 2012 she authored a chapter on gender issues for “Accelerating Development Using the Web: Empowering Poor and Marginalized Populations,” edited by George Sadowsky.
The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) is an international sister organization of TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world. OWSD is headed by eminent women scientists from the south, consisting of more than 3,000 members. The central role is to promote women’s access to science and technology, enhancing their greater involvement in the decision-making processes for the development of their countries and in the international scientific community. Created in 1989, OWSD overall goal is to work towards bridging the gender gap in science and technology. OWSD uses its forum for intellectual discussions to assist in the development of national capabilities to evolve, explore and improve strategies for increasing female participation in science.
WISAT is a consulting group which promotes innovation, science and technology strategies that enable women, especially those living in developing countries, to actively participate in technology and innovation for development. Women should be able to benefit from the advantages of technological development equally with men, including access to and use of technologies and full participation in innovation systems. www.wigsat.org
About The Elsevier Foundation
The Elsevier Foundation is a corporate charity funded by Elsevier, a global provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The Elsevier Foundation provides grants to knowledge centered institutions around the world, with a focus on developing world libraries, nurse faculty and scholars in the early stages of their careers. Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than 60 grants worth millions of dollars to non-profit organizations working in these fields. Through gift-matching, the Foundation also supports the efforts of Elsevier employees to play a positive role in their local and global communities. www.elsevierfoundation.org.
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