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Closing the gender gap in science

This year’s International Women and Girls in Science Day, implemented by UNESCO and UN-Women, focused on Closing the gender gap in science: Accelerating action.

Despite the progress made in recent decades, still today only one in three researchers globally is a woman, describes UNESCO. This persistent gender disparity is the result of the numerous barriers that female scientists continue to face, all of which can discourage girls from pursuing scientific careers and hinder the progress of women in the field.

Only one in three researchers globally is a woman.”

Although Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields are widely regarded as critical to national economies, so far most countries, no matter their level of development, have not achieved gender equality in STEM, UNESCO reports further. According to their statistics, only 33.3% (global average) are female researchers and only 35% of all students in STEM related fields of study are women.

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Read more: The gender gap in life science start-ups

Despite statistics that show close performance of girls and boys in science and mathematics, strong gendered stereotypes prevail, UNESCO states further. Many girls are still less encouraged in STEM fields and have limited choices (if any) for their education and career development. Also, women occupy a small minority of top-level positions despite an improvement in recent years and only 22 women have been awarded a Nobel Prize in a scientific discipline to date.

Read more: Science needs women

A leadership responsibility

In 2020, Young Academies from the Nordic and the Baltic countries published a joint statement on gender equality in academia with the aim to engage the new generation of researchers. Nordic Life Science spoke to Guru Busterud and Ingrid Lossius Falkum, Board members of the Young Academy of Norway, about their view and the statement. Among other things they said that improvement of gender balance is a leadership responsibility. “It is important to have explicit and ambitious goals for gender balance in academic positions, leader positions, among project leaders, and so on. It is crucial that such goals are quantified, since this makes it easier to evaluate their achievement,” they said.

It is important to have explicit and ambitious goals for gender balance in academic positions, leader positions, among project leaders, and so on. It is crucial that such goals are quantified, since this makes it easier to evaluate their achievement.”

They also emphasized that it is important to get statistics on gender balance among applicants for academic positions (including leader positions), the candidates who are invited for an interview, and also the candidate who gets the position.

Read more: Making a stand for gender equality

“It is also crucial that they consider the length of parental leave when evaluating applicants’ merits and scientific performances. Also, given that the increased focus on mobility and internationalization in academia may raise specific challenges for female researchers with families, it is important to recognize that there are alternative methods for assessing international experience, such as shorter research visits, international conferences, co-authorship and international project collaboration,” they stated.

NLS celebrates Women in Life Sciences

Within life science research Nordic Life Science has met and interviewed many inspiring women in life sciences throughout the years, both young female scientists at the beginning of their careers as well as well-established female scientists – including several Nobel Laureates!

Meet a few of them here!

Ada Yonath, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2009 (Photo: iucr.org), and Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2020 (Photo: IGI).

 

Most recently NLS has also interviewed Nobel Laureates Katalin Karikó and Carolyn Bertozzi.

 

Carolyn Bertozzi, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2022 (Photo: Christopher Michel), and Katalin Karikó, Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology 2023 (Photo: Peggy Peterson).