Mind The Gap.

 In Articles

By Beatrice Uguagliati

One of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nation for the year 2030 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In 2019 the amount of time required to close the global gender gap was estimated to be 100 years. Covid-19 Pandemic had a massive impact on gender equality and in 2021 the number of years estimated to close global gender gap is now 135.6

Taking a deep look, specifically in the field of science, the gender gap is immense. Despite more women gaining higher education, according to UNESCO less than 30% of researcher in the world are female. Moreover gender gap persist in terms of the field of study chosen: women representation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is even lower.

 

In 1993 Margaret Rossiter, a science historian, coined the term Matilda Effect.  The Matilda Effect describes the suppression of information about women in science and the denial of women’s contribution in scientific research. Rossiter denounced the tendency of male scientist to cite scientific articles with male author instead of same quality articles with female author. The lower number of citations affects the work of female scientists making their study less visible and hindering their career. Another side of the Matilda Effect is the attribution of a woman’s work to a male colleague. We all remember Rosalind Franklin story in which her essential contribution to the discovery of DNA structure earned the Nobel Prize to Franklin’s male colleagues while her contribution was recognized only many years later.

The stereotype that defines women as mothers and caregivers is still well entrenched in our society. Many little girls grow up receiving dolls as birthday gift, they are expected to help their mothers in the kitchen while their brothers would get building blocks and are encouraged to use computers. Among European adolescents only 10 out of 100 females are interested in pursuing STEM careers while the number of boys dreaming a similar career is almost triple.

 

Women working in STEM are paid less, publish less and their careers are slower compared to men. The gender gap is one of the most urgent issues inside the scientific community. It has been estimated that closing the gender gap would contribute to an increase in the European GDP per capita by 2.2 to 3.0% in 2050. Reaching gender equality could contribute to increase employment, productivity, and reduce occupational segregation.

Gender gap in STEM could also have dramatic consequences: an example is now visible in machine learning. Main artificial intelligence research center are located in the Western world with the majority of white man as researcher. We are witnessing the creation of artificial intelligence on a white male scale, machines that think like the men who created them.

 

According to UNESCO the factors that influence a girl to choose, or not, a career in STEM are social, cultural, economic, educational and institutional. The lack of female role models is one of the major problems contributing to the low percentage of women graduating in STEM. Girls need achievable models, not the stereotypical genial female scientist with big glasses and no social life. Normal women that decided to work in science and fought to achieve their dream. In this way every little girl could become whatever she wanted to: a scientist, a dancer, a doctor, or even an astronaut princess.

 

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