At a high-level event marking the International Day for Women and Girls in Science, the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation convened global leaders to explore ways to support women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and remove the obstacles women and girls face in pursuing careers as inventors and entrepreneurs. The Coalition and its event are part of a global multi-sector mobilization to accelerate gender equality implementation by 2025, kick-started by the 2021 Generation Equality Forum.
“We know that role models have an important influence on whether young women feel that STEM is welcoming them and whether they pursue STEM subjects in school and in their careers. The number of girls interested in STEM almost doubles when they have role models they can name and identify with,” said UN Women Deputy Executive Director Åsa Regnér, opening the event in a dialogue with youth inventor and author, Gitanjali Rao.
Emphasizing that innovation is not an option but rather a necessity, Rao shared her passion for inventing and shared that her interest in technology was built on a combination of using a scientific approach and creating impact.
Build inclusive innovation ecosystems
Women and girls should be empowered not only to build solutions but also to bring these solutions to market as leaders of their ventures, explained Koç Holding Corporate Communications and External Affairs Director, Oya Ünlü Kızıl.
“The private sector plays a key role in tackling challenges and obstacles women face. Through mobilizing our ecosystem, we set inclusive and measurable targets to support women and girls in their education journey and empower them in their professional lives in science, technology and innovation fields,” outlined Ünlü Kızıl.
Koç Holding has committed to supporting collaborations with women innovators to narrow the gender-gap and to contribute to the Technology and Innovation Action Coalition’s target to double the proportion of women working in technology and innovation by 2026.
Scaling women’s participation in STEM requires building more inclusive innovation ecosystems which can be done if public institutions and private sector put gender equality at the centre of their agenda, said Finnfund Director of Impact and Sustainability, Kaisa Alavuotunk, emphasising that women must have equal opportunities to access networks and investment funding.
Leave no one behind
For solutions to be transformative, they must address inequities faced by marginalized populations. Investment and mentorship from corporations to civil society organizations can be one strategy to create pathways to prosperity for women and girls. For example, with the support provided through Google’s Impact Challenge for Women and Girls 2021, Social Builder will support 150,000 women to access jobs in technology by 2025.
The Founder and CEO of Social Builder, Emmanuelle Laroque, explained how their online platform will “equip local feminist communities and non-profits with interactive programmes that will help them inspire their beneficiaries, train them, and help them access jobs and opportunities and transition to the digital sector.”
Fund feminist entrepreneurs
Women working in male-dominated sectors – such as STEM – face systemic barriers from the earliest stages of their careers. The Action Coalition aims to counter this trend by increasing investments in feminist technology and innovation by 50 per cent over the coming five years to support women’s leadership as innovators and entrepreneurs.
Multinational companies have a key role to play in realizing this goal. Jamila Belabidi-Chahidi, Procter & Gamble Global Purchases Director, outlined the company’s bespoke accelerator program tailored to support women-led start-ups. She introduced Cecile Dekeuwer, the founder and CEO of WeCo – a company focused on providing sustainable toilets – who reflected on her entrepreneurship journey, the need to encourage more women and girls to pursue STEM education and how the programme helped her build confidence and visibility.
Shape the next generation of women leaders in STEM
Undersecretary of the Chile Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, María José Abud Sittler, closed the session by outlining that Chile is leading a global, regional and local agenda to offer economic opportunities and training in digital skills to more than 3.8 million women. She expressed that “the pandemic has prompted a wide range of innovative policy interventions in the scientific communities … and we must keep the momentum. This crisis must be seen as an opportunity to do things differently and to close historical gaps in STEM.”
Speakers, including the Cartier Women’s Initiative who moderated the dialogue, invited organizations from all sectors to help advance the cause by making a commitment to the Technology and Innovation Action Coalition.