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International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Date: Tuesday 11 February 2020
Author: Councillor Penny Frost
Title: Chair of the Education and Children’s Services Committee

Councillor Penelope Frost

I am so tempted to write my blog this week to feature all the fun of Valentine’s Day, but that feels a bit frivolous - so instead, I am reflecting on the importance to our society of 11 February, which has been designated by the UN as their annual International Day to recognise the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.

Over the past 15 years, the global community has put much effort into inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be steered away from participating fully in science and related fields through long-standing biases and gender stereotypes, and these are mirrored in our media. 

At present, fewer than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women. According to UNESCO data (2014 - 2016), only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Globally, female students' enrolment is particularly low in ICT (3 per cent), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5 per cent) and in engineering, manufacturing and construction (8 per cent). 

In order 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, the United Nations General Assembly decided to establish an annual International Day on 11 February. Since science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this year's theme is Investment in women and girls in science for inclusive green growth.

This may sound a bit dry and academic, but tackling some of the greatest challenges of the Agenda for Sustainable Development -from improving health to combating climate change- will rely on harnessing all talent. That means getting more women working in these fields, and that is the great challenge for us to take on, through our teaching at school and university, our employment practices and our media. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, talent and creativity.

This International Day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.

Updated: 24 March 2021