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Improving measurement of gender equality in STEM

© L’Oréal Foundation
Alia Shatanawi, 2014 UNESCO-L'Oréal International Fellow (Jordan)

Currently, there is a large imbalance in the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), compared with the participation of men, in particular at the more advanced career levels. Globally, women are the most under-represented not at the entry into science education as children or youth, but starting in graduate studies, with a “leaky pipe” of career development, so that at every step up the level of status and responsibility, women become rarer.

There are various possible explanations for this gender imbalance, and a large amount of anecdotal evidence, but solid information is still lacking. In fact, the growing demand for cross-nationally comparable statistics on the representation of women in STEM is only slowly starting to be met.

Yet, the lack of data and indicators, as well as of available analytical studies, can obstruct the design, monitoring, and evaluation of policies aimed at successfully tackling the issue of gender inequality in STEM. Effective STEM policies need to be evidence-based and hence supported by relevant statistics and indicators. There is an urgent need to develop new indicators and methods to collect and analyze sex-disaggregated data on women’s participation in STEM around the world, in order to elaborate and implement appropriate solutions.

Projects and initiatives

Women in Science: Explore the data worldwide
Through its worldwide data collection activities, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) determines, measures and assesses sex-disaggregated data. In 2014, UIS developed an award-winning interactive feature on Women in Science, allowing for exploration of the available data for each country worldwide.

STEM and Gender Advancement (SAGA)
The general objective of SAGA is to contribute to reducing the gender gap in STEM fields in all countries at all levels of education and research, by determining, measuring and assessing sex-disaggregated data, as well as undertaking an inventory of policy instruments that affect gender equality in STEM, in order to generate new and improved indicators to support future evidence-based policy making.

Gender Sensitive Water Monitoring Assessment and Reporting
In terms of water resources management, significant gender imbalances still exist and are likely to be exacerbated by climate variability and change. These imbalances hamper effective water provision, water-policy formulation, water management, and climate change mitigation and adaption. This groundbreaking project, launched by the UN World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), in partnership with its host UNESCO, aims to develop and test the collection of key sex-disaggregated water data.

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