Ladies profession scientists nonetheless face gender bias: UNESCO


New Delhi, February 12

Women still account for only 28 per cent of engineering graduates and 40 per cent of graduates in computer science and informatics, said a forthcoming UNESCO Science Report.

A chapter on gender in science from the report, called ‘To be Smart the Digital Revolution will Need to be Inclusive’, was published on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and highlights that women are not benefitting fully from employment opportunities open to highly educated and skilled experts in cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence where only one in five professionals (22 per cent) is a woman, according to a 2018 study by the World Economic Forum on the Global Gender Gap.

A statement from UNESCO said: “Likewise, women founders of start-ups still struggle to access finance, and, in large tech companies, they remain under-represented in both leadership and technical positions. They are also more likely than men to leave the tech field, often citing poor career prospects as a key motivation for their decision. Corporate attitudes towards women are evolving, however, as studies link investor confidence and greater profit margins to having a diverse workforce.”

“Women need to be part of the digital economy to prevent Industry 4.0 from perpetuating traditional gender biases. As the impact of artificial intelligence on societal priorities continues to grow, the underrepresentation of women’s contribution to research and development means that their needs and perspectives are likely to be overlooked in the design of products that impact our daily lives, such as smartphone applications.”

“Even today, in the 21st century, women and girls are being sidelined in science-related fields due to their gender. Women need to know that they have a place in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and that they have a right to share in scientific progress,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in a statement.

The glass ceiling also remains an obstacle to women’s careers in academia, despite some progress, says the statement. Globally, women have achieved numerical parity (45–55 per cent) at the bachelor’s and master’s levels of study and are on the cusp at PhD level (44 per cent), according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. The gender gap widens as women progress in their academic careers, with lower participation at each successive rung of the ladder from doctoral student to assistant professor to the director of research or full professor.

Overall, female researchers tend to have shorter, less well-paid careers. Their work is underrepresented in high-profile journals and they are often passed over for promotion. Women are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues and, while they represent 33.3 per cent of all researchers, only 12 per cent of members of national science academies are women.

The complete UNESCO Science Report: The Race against Time for Smarter Development, is scheduled to be released in April this year.—IANS



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