The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, observed annually on February 11, stands as a testament to the global commitment towards promoting gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
Established by the United Nations General Assembly through resolution 70/212 on December 22, 2015, this day aims to highlight the importance of women's full and equal participation in scientific endeavours. Let's explore the background, challenges, and the commendable efforts made in commemorating this significant day.
Historically, women have been underrepresented in science and technology, facing persistent challenges in pursuing STEM fields. While the 1960s to the 1980s saw a gradual increase in women obtaining science and engineering degrees, progress plateaued from the 1980s onwards.
Social barriers, such as societal expectations for women in the home, early marriage, and discriminatory practices in the labour market, have hindered women's pursuit of education and careers in STEM, particularly in developing regions like Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean.
In the present day, social barriers to female participation persist, manifesting as pervasive gender biases. Studies in the United Kingdom reveal that girls are less likely to be encouraged to study physics post the compulsory participation age. Regional differences also play a role, with the United States facing lower enrollment and attraction to scientific education, while the Arab world sees high enrollment but encounters career and social barriers preventing further participation.
The United Nations took a significant step towards addressing these challenges by adopting resolution 70/212, proclaiming February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This resolution builds upon the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, emphasising the goals of quality education and gender equality. UNESCO and UN Women have taken the lead in implementing this day, working collaboratively with governments, intergovernmental organisations, civil society, universities, and corporations to promote and celebrate women's contributions to scientific fields.
Each year, the United Nations hosts the International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly, bringing together representatives from member states, international organisations, the private sector, and leading scientists. Co-sponsored by various nations, the assembly focuses on a central theme, shaping the discussions and initiatives for that year.
Year 2016: Theme- “Transforming the World: Parity in Science”
Year 2017: Theme- “Gender, Science and Sustainable Development: The Impact of Media - From Vision to Action”
Year 2018: Theme- “Equality and Parity in Science for Peace and Development”
Year 2019: Theme- “Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth”
Year 2020: Theme- “Equality in Science, Technology and Innovation: Global Trends and Challenges”
Year 2021: Theme- “Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society”
Year 2022: Theme- “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”
Year 2023: Theme- “Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance. Sustain. IDEAS: Bringing Everyone Forward for Sustainable and Equitable Development.”
For the Year 2024, the main theme for the 9th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly is: “Women and Girls in Science Leadership, a New Era for Sustainability”, and the subtheme is “Think Science ... Think Peace”.
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science serves as a poignant reminder of the strides made towards gender equality in STEM fields and the persistent challenges that require collective efforts to overcome. Through annual commemorations, focused themes, and collaborative initiatives, the global community continues to champion the cause, inspiring future generations of women and girls to pursue and thrive in scientific pursuits. As we celebrate this day, it is crucial to reflect on our achievements and reaffirm our commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable environment for women and girls in science.