Women in STEM

Solutions to international challenges lie at the intersection of science, technology, and global affairs. To address the world’s most urgent needs, such as climate change, energy, water, or food security, scientists and engineers need to understand the global social, political, and economic contexts in which their work is embedded. The study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), has become vital for international development.

A more inclusive workforce is more innovative and productive; it inspires growth. Gender equity in STEM is a way to enhance scientific and technological advances, rather than just improving opportunities for women. Unfortunately, women account for a small percentage of STEM fields.  Worldwide, a mere 28 percent of researchers are women.

“The untapped potential of fully trained and credentialed women represents an important lost opportunity not only for women themselves but also for society as a whole.” – Inter-American Development Bank 

In Latin America, STEM education has historically been deficient, particularly when applying a gender lens. Based on most recent UNESCO data, there is a clear gender gap in enrollment and graduation rates in the sciences among participating countries in the region.

STEM graph

 

Although 45 percent of scientific researchers in Latin America are women, surpassing all other regions, in STEM fields the number drops to 36 percent. Numerous cultural and socioeconomic barriers prevent women from pursuing STEM fields in Latin America. Cultural norms with traditional gender roles often lead girls to drop out of school to meet gendered obligations like care giving. They may also face domestic violence, forced marriage or experience pregnancy at an early age. Distance from schools, particularly in rural areas, can also be a barrier, especially in communities that prioritize boys’ schooling and girls’ roles in the home.

A change in cultural perception and values could encourage more women to join STEM fields.

By Ana Maria Defillo, TRF Communications Manager