By Sharon Atieno

As the world gears up for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February, more needs to be done to ensure that they are fully included in the field of sciences.

It is estimated that globally, only 30% of researchers are women. Moreover, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) data (2014-2016), only 30% of all female students select science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related fields in higher education.

Long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are pushing girls and women away from science related fields with studies showing that women in STEM fields publish less, are paid less for their research, and do not progress as far as men in their careers.

“We need to break gender stereotypes that link science to masculinity and expose young generations to positive role models; women engineers, astronauts and researchers,” urged Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of United Nations Women in preparation for the Day.

“We need a dedicated strategy not only for increasing the representation of women  in the talent pipeline for STEM jobs, but also for ensuring that they thrive, incentivizing them to remain in these high-paying jobs and institutionalizing organizational cultures that enable women to advance in these fields.”

She further calls on everyone to harness the power of innovation and technology as drivers of change, and work together to empower all women and girls across the science fields.

Bridging the gender gap in STEM is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as tackling the challenges envisioned in the SDGs requires harnessing all talents. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, talent and creativity.

UN Women calls for investment and opportunities for women and girls to learn, grow and innovate in science and technology, and for companies globally to adopt the Women’s empowerment principles that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and the community.

The bodies in-charge of implementation of International Day of Women and Girls in Science are UNESCO and UN Women in collaboration with various stakeholders. The Day was established in 2015 to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.This year’s theme will be investment in women and girls for inclusive green growth.