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Friday, June 9, 2023

Empowering women and girls in science

On Friday, February 11, 2022, on the 7th International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the UN Climate Change shone the spotlight on the crucial role women and girls play in science and technology.

Girl child
The girl child: Increased female participation in science is key to tackling major global challenges such as climate change

As the world continues to face a climate emergency, mankind must work together to find solutions and put them into action. This means ensuring the implementation of, and universal access to, gender-responsive climate education so more women and girls can contribute to achieving a sustainable and just future.

For example, a significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. Even though there has been a rapid increase in female enrolment in higher education in most parts of the world, women are still under-represented in STEM fields.

According to UNESCO, women only account for 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics – fields that are driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution and are essential for the transition to a low-carbon economy. In addition, gender gaps exist in the care sector, which will become increasingly important as the climate crisis worsens. For example, while 70% of health and social care workers are women, they are paid 11% less than their male counterparts.

Ensuring more women and girls participate in STEM disciplines is a way to strengthen climate strategies. With women and girls empowered to take on leadership roles and contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation, it creates opportunities for them to redefine and transform our economies and societies.

Fostering women and girls’ empowerment

Many countries are taking steps to address bridge these gaps. One of the major areas of work on women and girls’ education and empowerment under the UN Climate Change process is the enhanced Lima work programme on gender and its gender action plan. Recognising the importance of gender equality, the gender action plan aims to catalyse capacity-building initiatives in women’s leadership, develop gender-responsive climate action, and achieve women’s and girls’ full participation and leadership in science, technology, research and development.

A related area of work is Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), which includes climate education and training in its six elements. ACE aims to enhance the implementation of climate education, recognising that climate action is most effective when everyone, including women and girls, is empowered and equipped to take action.

Strengthening girls’ access to climate education is where these two work streams meet to accelerate gender equality, as well as drive more ambitious and just climate solutions.

Women-led solutions on the ground

While challenges remain, women are tackling climate change in their own communities across the globe, both as leaders and beneficiaries.

The UN Global Climate Action Awards highlight dozens of diverse women-led projects, such as a widespread biking initiative in Syria and reversed rainforest deforestation in Indonesia.

Projects like these showcase the critical leadership and participation of women in addressing climate change and remind the world of the importance of the full and equal access to, and participation in, science for women and girls.

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