Women’s and girls’ equal access and participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education – CSW 58

Commission of the Status of Women 58: Panel 4 Discussion

Women’s and girls’ equal access and participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education

Moderator: H.E. Carlos Garcia, Vice-Chair of the Commission (El Salvador)

Panelists: Ms. Gloria Bonder (Argentina), Director of the Gender, Society and Policies Area of FLACSO, Ms. Njideka Harry, President and CEO of the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), Ms. Leigh Ann DeLyser, Computer Science Education consultant with New York City’s Department of Education; and Ms. Luna Ruiz, student at the Academy for Software Engineering


In accordance with its multi-year program of work, the Commission on the Status of Women at its 58th session reviewed progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions of the 55th session in 2011 on ‘Access and participation of women and girls in education, training and science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work’.  

This panel focused on the first three recommendations of the 2011 Agreed Conclusions which are: (i) strengthening national legislation, policies and programs; (ii) expanding access and participation in education; (iii) strengthening gender-sensitive quality education and training, including in the field of science and technology.

Major Themes and Discussion

1) It is of critical importance that women and girls have equal access to education at all levels and acquire relevant skills, particularly in STEM-related fields

  • Global innovation and advancements in STEM have strong relevance and potential impact for poverty eradication and the achievement of sustainable development and it is important to include women and girls in the study and use of these innovations and advancements
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, it is estimated that 2.5 million engineers and technicians are needed to improve access to clean water and sanitation—a sector that heavily influences the lives of women and girls. In 25 countries combined, women spend 16 million daily hours collecting water. Yet, they have little say in decisions over how water and sanitation  resources are managed and improved, and how investments are made in scientific and technological infrastructure and solutions
  • The private sector needs to understand the economic argument that women comprise 80% of the people who use technology to buy products, yet they are grossly under-represented in the design of this technology. Companies that include women in designing technology are 30% more profitable than companies that do not.
  • If as many women worked in the digital sector as men, the European GDP could increase by an estimated €9 billion. However, just 30 percent of the 7 million people who work in this sector in Europe are women.
  • Technology jobs are fastest growing jobs in the world and provide the highest salaries and most socio-economic upward mobility. Unlike many other professions, a job in the technology field does not always require graduate or post-graduate work. Women and girls need access to the growing opportunities in these fields.

2) The epistemology of learning has changed with the advent of technology

  • In order to understand the best way to provide equal access to women and girls to STEM, we need to understand how learning is taking place in the 21st century- it is in less conventional places than schools and through a variety of electronic devises
  • We need to make structural changes based on this new epistemology
  • In more conventional settings we need to understand how institutes of secondary and tertiary education get built, where they are built and who manages them and staffs them. Are these settings conducive to equal access?
  • We need to renew our educational systems to represent the interests and needs of men and women equally.

3) Women and girls need multi-dimensional support in their pursuit of STEM subjects

  • Gender stereotypes, cultural barriers and low quality of education continue to affect young women’s and girls’ career choices and opportunities. These factors are even more prominent in STEM fields and have resulted in their low participation in STEM education at all levels
  • Youth for Technology Foundation initiative in Nigeria, encourages girls to identify pressing real-life issues in their communities and to use the appropriate technology to conduct science research, adapt engineering techniques and measure the impact of their intervention mathematically. An estimated 55 percent of the girl graduates from the Tele-Academy have gone on to pursue STEM careers or to declare a STEM major in their university studies.
  • United States, Girls Who Code (2012) developed a new model for computer science education, pairing intensive instruction of girls in robotics, web design and mobile development with mentorship and exposure among the industry’s top female engineers and entrepreneurs.
  • Governments should do media campaigns on relevance of science to girls
  • Recent research in India shows that more women than men leave the ICT sector at the mid-career level and that women are underrepresented in managerial and decision-making positions. In addition to earning less than men, women receive less on-the-job experiences, such as international assignments, and were four times more likely than men to assume the role of the “stay-at-home-partner” during their career.
  • National assessments on gender, science and technology and innovation carried out by Women in Global Science and Technology in Brazil, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, the United States, and the European Union was that women gain ground in countries that have policies for health, childcare and equal pay

Submitted By:

Geeta Desai

Advocacy Convener, WG-USA

GWI Membership Committee