International Women’s Day and the Future of Gender Equality
“We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
– Marie Curie, physicist and chemist who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
It has been eight years since the United Nations established the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. and many more since the first International Women’s Day some 100 years ago. But where are we today?
According to the latest SDG Progress Report, more than 380 million women and girls live in extreme poverty and have inadequate access to education. Decent work and social protection remain a persistent problem as well, exacerbating their conditions of vulnerability.
This is an even more acute reality for those living in the Global South. Even when some progress has been made in education, it has not yet reached the poorest households and rural areas. The same phenomenon can be seen in the labor market, where far from closing the gap, it is widening. And this is just a small peak into the current state of gender inequality.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated to the world how far behind we are in achieving SDG 5, highlighting the urgency of rethinking a more creative, efficient, and (much more) inclusive strategy. In this sense, technological innovation represents a potential ally to reduce women’s vulnerability and inequality, especially through measures of inclusion in education and employability.
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, “narrowing the gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education areas could help reduce the skills gap, increase women’s employment and productivity, and reduce occupational segregation.”
With the labor market transitioning towards more technology and science-related jobs and the security that this sector often provides in terms of income and social benefits, promoting the inclusion of women in this field represents a sustainable path to equality.
However, the challenge of exclusion still needs to be addressed. More importantly, understanding the big who, why, and how:
Who is it affecting?
Why is this persisting?
How is it expressed?
In line with the World Bank, there is ample evidence demonstrating the role that stereotypes play in reproducing the gender gap in STEM, as well as in increasing discrimination, and how these ideas are fused throughout the entire system of our social environment: from their parents to their co-workers and from children’s role-playing to educational materials, discouragement is constant and comes from multiple flanks. Moreover, although women are more likely to pursue higher education, they remain in the minority in STEM fields, and those that do either drop out before their male peers or don’t even get in. And again, this reality is most acute in developing countries.
It is estimated that the inclusion of women in the STEM sector implies great improvements in the labor market. But far from being a resource to boost the economy and rather than a strategy to reduce gender inequality, it is an outstanding debt to the millions of girls and women who have been denied the opportunity to even dream of a different future.
European Institute for Gender Equality (n/a). Economic benefits of gender equality in the EU How gender equality in STEM education leads to economic growth. file:///Users/renatadiazleal/Downloads/2017.2082_mh0217177enn_pdfweb_20170803123353.pdf
Innovations Against Poverty (n/a). Self-Doubt and Solving a Pressing Challenge for Society. https://innovationsagainstpoverty.org/women-in-stem/
The World Bank (2020, November 23). The Equality Equation: Advancing the Participation of Women and Girls in STEM. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/gender/publication/the-equality-equation-advancing-the-participation-of-women-and-girls-in-stem
UN Women (2022). Progress on the sustainable development goals: The gender snapshot 2022. https://www.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/2022-09/Progress-on-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-gender-snapshot-2022-en_0.pdf