This site uses technical, analytics and third-party cookies.
By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies.

Preferences cookies

Conference of February 9th, 2024 at the UNESCO “Closing the Gender Gap in Science: Accelerating Action”

On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the conference Closing the Gender Gap in Science: Accelerating Action was held on February 9 at UNESCO in collaboration with L’Association fédérative nationale des étudiants universitaires scientifiques (AFNEUS).

The conference was opened by UNESCO Deputy Director General for Natural Sciences, Lidia Brito, who stressed the urgency of the need to close the gap between the two genders in science, as data confirms that women represent only one-third of it. Mentioning UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, ADG Brito stressed that “Science needs women and the world needs science,” as this gap is not only an obstacle for women but also a limitation for scientific progress and global development.

During the conference, both the causes and possible solutions to be implemented were analyzed. Important contributions were made by Ana Persic, head of the UNESCO Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Section, and several winners of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award, who shared their experiences as young female scientists; students from all over the world connected online and professionals specializing in science or the gender gap also spoke.

Further problems emerge in educational environments first, and then in work environments, which perpetuate such cultural stereotypes, consequently making scientific environments inadequate for supporting women, for example, during and following motherhood, as argued by Marielza Oliveira, Director of UNESCO’s Division for Digital Inclusion, Policy and Transformation, and Khaled Machaca, Senior Associate Dean for Research, Innovation and Commercialization at Weill Cornell Medicine, Qatar.
Finally, the issue of lack of role models for young aspiring female scientists was highlighted. Senegalese Dr. Salma Sylla Mbaye, for example, said how important that girls have models to look up to in this field, people whose careers are for inspiration, as also recalled by Bria Macklin, also a 2023 L’Oréal-UNESCO award winner from the United States.

Several solutions needed to overcome the gender gap were discussed during the day. First, the importance of collecting, monitoring and periodic evaluations of data and statistics around the issue, which have been significantly improving in recent years, was mentioned.

To overcome gender stereotypes in science, inclusive and innovative educational methods were discussed, such as that of including stories of female scientists in textbooks and establishing prizes and scholarships for young women who engage in science, as suggested by Aisén Etcheverry Escudero, Chile’s Minister of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation.

More education investment in teachers and students is also needed, a topic dear to Stéphanie Hamon, Vice President for Student Life and Quality of Life at Work at the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Lille. Dr. Hamon outlined the efforts of her university, which has organized sensitization courses for students on this topic.

Finally, the need for collective global action involving communities, schools and parents was highlighted. Several personalities attending the conference insisted on this last point, such as Justine Sass, Head of the Education Selection for Gender Inclusion and Equity, UNESCO, and Maria Begona Lasagabaster, Director of the Division on Gender Equity, UNESCO.

Conferences such as this one can also be opportunities to raise awareness of the issue throughout the community, which is still not fully involved, as the composition of the audience, which was almost entirely female, showed.