Gender equality in STEM
We must all join forces to advance gender equality in STEM. Measures include removing gender stereotypes in education, raising awareness and promoting STEM subjects to girls and women, and offering career guidance to encourage girls to consider studying in fields dominated by men.
Our regional advocacy platform, STEM4All, is engaging with multiple partners in Europe and Central Asia – from policymakers and academic institutions to women and girls themselves – in sharing knowledge, building coalitions and making connections to advance gender equality in STEM.
Earlier this year, the platform facilitated a 'Girls in Tech: Central Asia' event, which brought together leaders from the tech industry and ICT role models to share experiences and offer advice to more than 120 girls and women in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
One of our goals in the platform is to profile high-impact initiatives by our partners, government, and the private sector. For instance, the Engineer Girls of Turkey project is a wonderful model of how we can increase the employability of qualified women in engineering with scholarships, internships and mentoring, and coaching support.
In Azerbaijan, UNDP has partnered with USAID in piloting a nine-month mentorship programme to equip young women and girls with tools and advice to progress in STEM fields. The platform is powered by the Accelerator Labs, a UNDP learning network created to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The future of work
While the demand for workers in STEM occupations is only expected to grow in the future, in Europe and Central Asia, the share of women researchers in engineering and technology crosses 40 percent only in a few countries. The number of women in computer science is also particularly low compared to men: women are only 18 percent of ICT specialists in the EU, while just 16 percent of founders in the ICT and tech fields in Southern Caucasus and Western CIS are women.
Cultural and social norms, a lack of childcare support, and inadequate parental leave policies are major barriers to women entering and progressing in careers of their choice. These obstacles are amplified manifold in STEM fields, whose men-dominated workplaces and entrenched gender stereotypes present formidable impediments to many talented women.
Gender equality in STEM and in the future of work is a goal unto itself. We cannot deny half of humanity the opportunity to enter and succeed in this high-growth sector which powers the green and digital transition.
But there are also compelling economic and social reasons for us to strive towards this goal.
In the EU, for example, closing the gender gap in STEM could lead to an additional 1.2 million jobs. More women graduating in STEM subjects and choosing careers in higher-wage sectors can gradually increase their average earnings, helping to close the gender wage gap.
The world and the future of work need women's skills and perspectives, talent and leadership, as much as those of men. We must all make concerted actions to close the gender digital gap. Only then will we leverage the power of technology to advance girls’ and women’s education and opportunities to achieve an equal future.