Science remains a male-dominated space, which is why International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11) is such a vital day for the global community to engage women and girls in the field — and celebrate the too often overlooked achievements of women in science.
Globally, women and girls continue to be excluded from fully participating in science at all levels. This is seen at school, university, in the workforce and in leadership.
Despite record numbers of women completing tertiary education around the world, long standing biases and gender stereotypes are consistently steering women and girls away from STEM fields.
In Australia, there are currently a number of women killing it in science leadership right now, including Megan Clark (pictured above) who is leading the new Australian Space Agency, and Dr Cathy Foley who was recently named the CSIRO’s chief scientist. Check out our recent list of female leaders in science here.
There is much to celebrate, but still plenty of challenges standing in the way of women and girls achieving (and getting the recognition they deserve) in science.
Below are some facts about women and girls in science (and STEM) around the world:
According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics data, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women.
It has been found that women who do manage to establish a research career in science fields tend to be published less, be paid less for their research and do not progress as far in their careers.
And the on screen world is reflective of real world biases. The 2015 Gender Bias Without Borders study by the Geena Davis Institute showed that only 12% of onscreen characters with an identifiable STEM job were women.
Despite women making up a slightly larger share (53%) of university graduates with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree than men internationally, they are less likely to continue to advanced doctoral studies. At this higher doctoral level, the share of female graduates drops to 44%.
Alarmingly, this pattern is almost identical to data from 2008, suggesting that the rates of women graduating with PhDs has remained stagnant over the last decade.
In Australia, women account for less than one in eight engineers in the workforce. In computer system design and related services, women make up less than a quarter of those employed.
A study conducted by Microsoft found that 72% of school aged girls said it was important for them to have jobs that directly helped the world. Only 37% of the girls who participated had a perception of careers in STEM making the world better.
According to the Office of the Chief Scientist, Australia is losing female talent at every stage of the STEM pipeline. It finds that gender bias and stereotyping begins at an early age, with two thirds of kids aged nine to 11 drawing a man when asked to draw a scientist. Meanwhile, already by Grade 4, girls are less confident than boys in their maths abilities. Later on, year 12 subject participation shows a clear gender imbalance, including in physics, biology and advanced maths.
And while women make up half of STEMM PhD candidates and early career researchers in Australia, just 20 per cent of those in leadership are female.
Recently, Robyn Moore from the University of Tasmania asked 61 women about their careers in STEMM, and found they were confronting a number of conflicting experiences in the workplace including sexism and bias — but then will often blame themselves for not getting ahead, rather than workplace culture.
Today and every day we should celebrate women in science, and ensure the girls in our lives can visibly see the achievements and potential of female scientists.
TODAY IS INTERNATIONAL DAY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS IN SCIENCE! Celebrate your collaborators & colleagues, work mates, friends, yourself. Lift, empower & inspire those around you. Pay it forward. Follow @WomenScienceDay https://t.co/NDHMRZpEOS for the latest! #WomeninScience4SDGs pic.twitter.com/jqqo9hgrWl
— Women in STEMM Aust (@WomenSciAUST) February 10, 2019