Few women in STEM | Political economics


FFebruary 11 is celebrated as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Since 2015, the day has been marked to advocate for greater diversity and inclusion of women and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to raise awareness of implicit biases and stereotypes. challenges faced by girls and women in these areas. . Ensuring the full participation of women and bringing gender equality to all fields of science, including emerging sciences like robotics, energy and climate change, is essential for achieving the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals and digital transformation. Women scientists not only serve as partners in building an equitable world, but also as catalysts and agents of change and innovation.

There is a constructed dichotomy between women and science. It is so entrenched in this part of the world that it is often taken as an axiomatic fact that girls cannot excel in math and laboratory science. Several factors ranging from lack of access to unequal opportunities in scientific disciplines and stereotyping and psycho-social controls have prevented girls and women in Pakistan from realizing their full potential and excelling in these fields.

Sadly, most women in Pakistan have been left behind by the groundbreaking scientific advances of the 21st century. This could significantly hamper the development of the nation and its global competitiveness.

According to a survey by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics conducted in 2015, in Pakistan, 37% of women researchers are in medical sciences, 33.8% in natural sciences, 15.4% in engineering and technology and 11% in sciences. agricultural. The remaining 39.9% of women researchers opt for the social sciences and humanities. This points to a particularly wide gender gap in some of the fastest growing and highest paying fields, such as IT, engineering and energy. The main reasons given to explain the gender disparity relate to the role assigned to women in Pakistani society and the pre-existing prejudices which form a glass ceiling for them and encourage the presence of men in the workplace.

The attitude of teachers and parents who view STEM and cutting-edge fields like robotics, artificial intelligence and energy as purely male and unsuitable for girls also affects women’s participation in these fields. A patriarchal setup perpetuates an inflexible and exclusive environment for girls, making STEM fields less attractive and unsupportive. Also, math anxiety in girls is conveyed by some female teachers. They are socially constructed handicaps with no scientific basis.

Producing an adequate supply of female researchers in a country where millions of girls are out of school or have not been able to complete their formal education is a task that requires sustained effort..

Conversely, in primary school, girls do better in geometry and general mathematics. Unfortunately, the lack of information and lack of good role models has resulted in a dearth of role models to inspire young female researchers to enter these fields.

Given the gender gap in socio-economic development, particularly the gender dimension of scientific and technological research, immediate corrective measures are needed. We must start by making education accessible and equitable at all levels. Producing a sufficient number of female researchers in a country where millions of girls are out of school or cannot complete their formal education is a task that requires sustained effort. Breaking the chains of primitive and backward social norms will begin at home. Parents must start investing in the education of their daughters as well as their sons. They should provide support for learning opportunities and value their daughters’ abilities. Parents and teachers need to make girls understand that math skills are acquired and change over time. This will help them overcome their anxiety and fear of math. A gender-neutral and harassment-free environment in research labs where female researchers can work around the clock without any bias or fear of their male supervisors and colleagues can enable them to work efficiently and diligently. This way we can create role models and success stories. A visible role model can help instill a mindset that promotes growth and empowers girls to meet challenges and solve complex problems.

In order to keep abreast of the demands of a rapidly changing world, the government must ensure that every student is exposed to STEM, artificial intelligence, aeronautics and machine learning from the start of their His development. Connecting the STEM experience to girls’ lives, promoting active hands-on learning, and emphasizing that STEM is collaborative and community-driven will help open a new window of opportunity for girls and women. However, for all of this to happen, increased awareness of higher education and career and pathway opportunities, role models and mentorship programs with women in STEM for young girls are needed.

Diffuse hierarchical and dependent relationships between interns and faculty, change power dynamics and hold the university community accountable for reducing and preventing sexual harassment, ensuring transparency and accountability, and supporting targets of sexual harassment, will help girls find attractive areas to work in and excel in. This will give them confidence and encourage them to pursue careers in fields that were previously dominated by men. The tipping point in this regard is to make the work environment safe, providing incentives such as fair wages, flexible hours, and strong family and medical leave policies.

The writer works as an advocacy officer at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad

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