Women and the digital revolution (chapter 3)
Women a minority in Industry 4.0 fields
Women accounted for one in three (33%) researchers in 2018. They have achieved parity (in numbers) in life sciences in many countries and even dominate this field, in some cases. However, they make up just one-quarter (28%) of tertiary graduates in engineering and 40% of those in computer sciences. Just 22% of professionals working in the field of AI are women. The irony is that these fields are not only driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution; they are also characterized by a skills shortage. Women remain a minority in technical and leadership roles in tech companies. In the USA, the main reason given by women for leaving their job in the tech world is a sense of being undervalued.
Fewer than one in four researchers in the business world is a woman and, when women start up their own business, they struggle to access finance. In 2019, just 2% of venture capital was directed towards start-ups founded by women. Countries have introduced measures to support female entrepreneurs. For example, Chile introduced the Human Capital for Innovation in Women’s Enterprises scheme in 2018. It provides tech-based start-ups founded by women with cofinancing of up to 30 million pesos (ca US$ 40 000) to help them hire staff for a given project, covering 80% of the hiring cost for men and 90% for women.
working in the field of AI in 2018
founded by women in 2019
- Box 3.1: Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting women in science and engineering
- Box 3.2: A gender index to quantify progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals
- Box 3.3: Preparing African girls for a future in Industry 4.0
- Box 3.4: Access to finance biggest obstacle for women tech entrepreneurs in Africa
- Box 3.5: A holistic approach towards gender policies through the UNESCO SAGA project
- Box 3.6: Women still a minority in academies of science
- Box 3.7: This unique scheme can track the gender pay gap among researchers
- Box 3.8: The world needs science and science needs women
- Table 3.1: Share of female tertiary graduates by field, 2018 (%)
- Table 3.2: Female researchers as a share of total researchers (HC) by field, 2018 (%)
- Figure 3.1: Probability of automation in England, 2017
- Figure 3.2: Share of women in top 20 countries for share of professionals with AI skills, 2017 (%)
- Figure 3.3: Women in technical and leadership roles in selected top multinational technology companies, 2018–2019
- Figure 3.4: Women as a share of total researchers (HC), 2018 or closest year (%)
- Figure 3.5: Share of women among researchers in the business enterprise sector, 2018 or closest year (%)
- Figure 3.6: Share of Patent Cooperation Treaty applications with female innovators, 2008–2019
- Figure 3.7: Share of Patent Cooperation Treaty applications with at least one woman inventor by technology, 2010 and 2019 (%)
- Figure 3.8: Share of female members of national science academies, 2013 (%)
- Figure 3.9: The career pyramid: 24 case studies
Download the chapter and underlying data
- To be smart, the digital revolution will need to be inclusive (PDF)
- Annex 6: Statistical Annex (Excel)
- Annex 6: Statistical Annex (PDF)
UNESCO research shows women career scientists still face gender bias
Despite a shortage of skills in most of the technological fields driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, women still account for only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics, according to the forthcoming UNESCO Science Report, whose chapter on gender in science, entitled To be Smart the Digital Revolution will Need to be Inclusive, is published on 11 February to mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
One in three researchers is a woman
Globally, women make up 33.3% of researchers (in head counts), according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics for 107 countries covering the years 2015–2018.
More countries are collecting and reporting sex-disaggregated data on researchers than 20 years ago, as this animated diagram demonstrates.