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Think Science, Think Peace: Include more Women and Girls

25 Jan 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

With Sri Lanka struggling to meet its debts and stabilise the economy, vital areas include high technology and the new dimension of the positive aspects of Artificial Intelligence (AI). As in most countries, men dominate these areas, and it is important for developing countries like Sri Lanka to get more women involved, because as a popular say, “Man smart, woman smarter.” So it is, in the case of high technology. 
On February 11, the United Nations marks the “International Day of Women and Girls in Science” with theme being, “Women in Science Leadership: A New Era for Sustainability.” In a statement, the UN says 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. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, talent 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.
Although the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields are widely regarded as critical to national economies, so far most countries, no matter their level of development, have not achieved gender equality in STEM.

A significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields.
According to the UN, gender equality has always been a core issue for the United Nations. Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution not only to economic development of the world, but to progress across all the goals and targets of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, as well.
On 14 March 2011, the Commission on the Status of Women adopted a report at its fifty-fifth session, with agreed conclusions on access and the participation of women and girls in Education, Training, Science and Technology, and for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. On 20 December 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Science, Technology and Innovation for Development, in which it recognized that full and equal access to and participation in Science, Technology and Innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
Women and girls represent half of the world’s population, and therefore, also half of its potential. Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development.
Women accounted for 33% of researchers in 2018, that means one in three. They have achieved parity in life sciences in many countries and even dominate this field, in some cases. However, women remain a minority in Digital Information Technology, Computing, Physics, Mathematics and Engineering. These are the fields that are driving the digital revolution and so, many of the jobs of tomorrow.
The UN says women are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues, and while they represent 33.3% of all researchers, only 12% of members of national science academies are women. In cutting edge fields such as Artificial Intelligence, only one in five professionals is a woman – that means 22%. Despite a shortage of skills in most of the technological fields driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, women still account for only 28% of Engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in Computer Science and Informatics. Female researchers tend to have shorter, less well-paid careers. Their work is underrepresented in high-profile journals, and they are often passed over for promotion.

According to the UN, recognising the role of women and girls in Science as agents of change, including in view of accelerating progress towards the achievement of SDGs 16 and 17, the main theme of the 9th International Day of Women and Girls in Science is: “Women and Girls in Science Leadership, a New Era for Sustainability”, whilst the subtheme is “Think Science ... Think Peace”.
The 9th assembly will bring together women among science leaders and experts from around the world, high-level government officials, representatives of international organizations, and the private sector to discuss women’s leadership in achieving the three pillars of Sustainable Development, namely Economic Prosperity, Social Justice, and Environmental Integrity.