International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Yesterday was the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
In December 2015 the United Nations Member States adopted a resolution to establish an annual International Day to recognise the critical role women and girls have to play in the wider science and technology communities.
Girls show just as much – if not more – interest in science and STEM-related fields in their early years, but sometime around the teenage years that fascination drops off and the numbers of girls studying STEM subjects decreases dramatically. Studies have shown that one contributing factor to this phenomenon is the attitude of both parents and children towards engineering and science-based professions: they are, unfortunately often, seen as ‘dirty’ ‘jobs for boys’.
For example, this study by the IET shows that only 35% of children and 47% of parents believe that engineering jobs are ‘for both boys and girls’.
Worldwide, women account for just 28% of all scientific researchers. This statistic stands at 32% for North America and Western Europe, 39.9% for Central and Eastern Europe, 36% for Arab States and 47.1% for Central Asia, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
To mark the day, the Institute of Physics tweeted a request to all science fans to share who their favourite women in science are with #WomeninSTEM, and as usual, the Internet responded in fine form, celebrating women and girls from all walks of life and all disciplines, from computer scientists to medical researchers.
The internet is full of articles espousing the benefits of a gender-balanced scientific community, but there is still a long way to go before we achieve that goal. Initiatives like this one are one of the best ways to improve public awareness of the problem and change the general perception of science and technology-related careers: it’s not just for geeks – science is for us all.