Gender equality in STEM is possible. These countries prove it.
Globally 72 percent of scientific researchers are men. But there are some exceptions.
There should be no shortage of inspirational role models for young girls dreaming of a career in science. Women have been responsible for some of the most important scientific breakthroughs that shaped the modern world, from Marie Curie's discoveries about radiation, to Grace Hopper's groundbreaking work on computer programming, and Barbara McClintock's pioneering approach to genetics.
But too often their stories aren't just about the difficulties they faced in cracking some of the toughest problems in science, but also about overcoming social and professional obstacles just because of their gender. And many of those obstacles still face women working and studying in science today.
Globally 72 percent of scientific researchers are men. Only one in five countries achieve what is classed as "gender parity" with women making up 45–55 percent of researchers. And in only a handful do women working in science outnumber men — with distinct regional variations.
In the EU 41 percent of scientists and engineers are women. But women outnumber men in those professions in Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Portugal and Denmark, as well as in non-EU member Norway.Image: Eurostat
But less than a third of researchers are women in Hungary, Luxembourg, Finland and, perhaps most surprisingly, Germany, which is actually led by an accomplished female scientist, Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Across Europe as a whole, men dominated high and medium high-technology manufacturing: 83 percent of scientists and engineers are male in those sectors, compared with 55 percent in scientific services.
In Asia, women make up the majority of researchers in Azerbaijan, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia and Kuwait.
In the Americas, Bolivia, Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala, Argentina, and Panama all have more than 50 percent female researchers, as do New Zealand and Tunisia.
So what is special about these countries?
For some, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the gender parity in science is a legacy of their membership of the Soviet Union and its satellite bloc, where female participation in science was actively encouraged, often in government-funded facilities. Others, like the Nordic countries, lead the world in gender equality thanks to ambitious welfare and social policies that help women in the workplace.
Globally, women tend to be employed more in the public sector, while even in countries with gender parity, such as Latvia and Argentina, men are over-represented in the private sector, where wages are often higher.
Women are also better represented in the health sector, as opposed to engineering and information technology, so that countries with more prominent medical research tend to have a better balance of women.
All over the world, there is the phenomenon of the "leaky pipeline" of lost talent. Girls are attracted to science at school, and actually make up the majority of science graduates with bachelor's degrees. Even at master's level women are in the majority.Image: UNESCO
But there is a dramatic drop in numbers at Ph.D. level, and the discrepancy gets wider still at researcher level.
Even when women are employed, they often face significant glass ceilings. In the U.K., for example, the proportion of women at management level in science and technology is just 13 percent. The effect is found in academia as well. One study found that while 61 percent of bioscience postgraduate students were women, just 15 percent of their professors were. There is also evidence that women are typically given less money in research grants, and find it harder to obtain venture capital for science and technology start-ups.
Some women put off careers in science because of the difficulty of combining work with family life — although, as in many other professions, those issues can be addressed with changes in policy and workplace behaviour. But deeper cultural stereotypes play a significant role too. UNESCO has pointed to a "persistent bias that women cannot do as well as men" that is self perpetuating, and often informs women's view of their own capabilities and achievements.
But these stereotypes can be overcome. India has seen a substantial increase in women studying and working in engineering, once seen as a "masculine" discipline. Parents often encourage daughters into engineering because of good employment prospects, and a perception it is a "friendlier" area than computer science. The role India's female engineers — the "rocket women of ISRO" — have played in the country's space program has been widely celebrated.Image: @scifri
Increasing the number of women in science isn't only about harnessing the best talent to tackle the challenges facing humanity. Science is often a foundation for well-paid careers that boost the economic security of women, and, in turn, give them a greater social and political voice.
And as the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report makes clear, the benefits this can bring are shared by society as a whole, whatever one's gender.
- This Brilliant Toy is Advancing Women in STEM, One Party Lamp at ... ›
- Female fans of 'The X-Files' more likely to work in STEM careers ... ›
- Gender equality paradox: fewer women in developed nations go ... ›
- Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and ... ›
- Women in STEM Resources - Sarah Rugheimer ›
- Women in STEM | BestColleges.com ›
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.