Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19
On this International Day, I urge commitment to end bias, greater investments in science, technology, engineering and math 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 contributionsAntónio Guterres
The United Nations in 2015 resolved to observe February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This observation aims to work towards full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. UNESCO and UN-Women, along with collaborating institutions, seek to promote women and girls in science. Women continue to be excluded from playing an essential role in the economy, even though representing half of the world’s population. Women have a role to play and a right to participate in SDG policies, programs, and decision-making at all levels relating to sustainable development goals.
Global communities have made an effort in inspiring women and girls to be in science. Yet you find them being excluded. Less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women. According to UNESCO, only around 30% of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in ICT (3%), natural science, mathematics, and statistics (5%) and engineering, manufacturing, and construction (8%). Long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science-related fields. UN Says there are only 30% of all the researchers and 35% of STEM students are women. Women are paid less for their research. Students in school are often discouraged, underestimated, and neglected in this field.
Gender equality is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development. It has been shown that empowering women leads to enhanced productivity and economic growth. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to achieve full equality of rights and opportunities between men and women. Efforts must be made to end the multiple forms of gender violence and ensure equal opportunities in access to employment and positions of leadership and decision-making at all levels. The worrying fact is that 52 countries in the world are yet to guarantee equality to women in their constitutions.
With significant momentum and interest to accelerate progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the 6th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly is being organized by the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT), with a theme “Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society”. It focuses on the value of the social aspects and cultural dimensions in Science, Technology, and Innovation to enhance sustainable development programs.
India had excellent researchers who happened to be women, like Rohini Godbole, Asima Chatterjee. Rohini Godbole, IISc faculty, Padma awardee winner and recently recognized by award Ordre National du Merite” by France. Asima Chatterjee, organic chemistry and development of the anti-malaria drug. Padma Bhushan
Tackling some of the most significant 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. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, skill, and creativity. This Day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.
COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical role women researchers played in different stages of the fight against COVID-19. From advancing the knowledge on the virus, developing techniques for testing, and finally creating the vaccine against the virus. The pandemic also had a significant negative impact on women scientists. The most affected being those at the early stages of their career.
If we are to be able to address the enormous challenges of the twenty-first century – from climate change to technological disruption – we will need to rely on science and the mobilization of all our resources. It is for this reason that the world must not be deprived of the potential, the intelligence, or the creativity of the thousands of women who are victims of deep-seated inequality and prejudice.Audrey Azoulay