Statement: Building a future of scientific progress and gender equality 

Statement by Ms Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, on the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February 2023

The 2023 International Day of Women and Girls in Science celebrates women and girls who have devoted themselves to science and the advancement of human knowledge and understanding as students, researchers, and practitioners.

They have made revolutionary discoveries, reinvented our future through the power of innovation, imagination and technology and paved the way for generations to come.

Statement: Building a future of scientific progress and gender equality 

Despite their many achievements, women and girls remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Globally they are a minority of students in STEM education, at only 35 per cent, with just 3 per cent studying information and communication technology.

This directly reflects the discrimination faced by women and girls around the world. It is even more true for more marginalized women and girls, such as indigenous and afro-descendant women, women with disabilities, women in rural areas, women on the move, elderly women, LGBTIQ+ communities and adolescent girls.  It starts in their early years and is shaped and reinforced by gender stereotypes and norms. These can be found embedded in curricula, textbooks, and teaching and learning practices. The choices imposed upon girls in school shape their careers and employment opportunities as adults.

When young women look at careers in STEM they find a strongly male-dominated culture. If you cannot see it you cannot be it, and thus continues a cycle of limited representation.

Existing initiatives have proven inadequate. Change for girls in science requires a paradigm shift, a commitment to long-term, sustainable programmes and initiatives that acknowledge structural barriers and work to remove them. It must span educational reform, with new curricula that fosters girls’ curiosity in scientific discoveries from an early age, including science and technology subjects through primary school.

Teachers and educational institutions need support to consciously remove gender biases and stereotypes in educational environments, textbooks and didactic materials. It starts with making women’s contributions to STEM visible, including through connecting young women and girls with STEM professionals.

This year, the sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) will consider as its priority theme “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the Commission to develop a definitive agenda for progress towards women’s full and equal participation and representation in STEM. Its implementation will require bold, coordinated, multi-stakeholder action.

UN Women remains ready to work with partners including through the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality. Together we can attain a future where scientific progress is gender-equal at its core, serving all, for the benefit of all and drawing on the talents of all.