International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Closing the gender gap

CHILE – On Monday was International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The gap, including in Chile, between men and women in science has become an important subject. Celebrating this day, the UN seeks to raise awareness of the problem.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was created by the United Nations in 2015. According to the corresponding document, the initiative seeks to “achieve full and equitable access and participation in science for women and girls.”   

In light of this initiative, the researchers of the publicly funded Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB) called for changing the national reality of female participation in science, engineering, mathematics and technology (STEM). “All women and men are welcome to do science,” one researcher emphasized in a video.

Worrying figures

In Chile, only 32% of researchers in the science and technology fields are female, said the UNESCO in its latest report about female education. This number puts Chile below the average of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is 45.5%.

At the same time, Chile’s science and technology council (CONICYT) published a report on gender equity in science, detailing that only 44% of national PhDs are women. Also, only 16% of research centers are run by a woman.

Education is key

But this problem is not only present at the professional level; the gender gap starts at school.

According to an investigation by Science magazine, 6-year-olds start to believe that women are less capable to learn mathematics and science, giving rise to a gender division.

This does not change at the time of entering university. The Ministry of Women and Gender Equity points out that only one in four enrollments in 2018 in the STEM fields came from a woman.

Because of this, the Chilean government has created the “More women in Sciences” campaign, which seeks to “promote and encourage more young women to choose careers focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

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A global problem

The gender gap, however, is a global problem. Only around 30% of female students worldwide choose a STEM career, according to the UNESCO.

Another important fact relates to the gender gap in secondary education. In South and West Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab states, more boys than girls finish their secondary education, but in Latin America and the Caribbean more girls than boys do so.

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