Gender Equality and UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Sector: Historical perspective

© L'Oréal Foundation / Brigitte Lacombe
Professor Yi Xie, Inorganic Chemistry, 2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards Laureate for Asia/Pacific

All United Nations agencies, including UNESCO, are required to promote gender equality within the framework of their mandate. UNESCO is one of the leading specialized UN agencies with a mandate covering five programme areas – Education, Natural Science, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, Communication and Information. These core areas of UNESCO’s mandate are all crucial for advancing the global gender equality agenda.

Therefore, in 2008, gender equality was identified as one of UNESCO’s two main priorities. And, in order to achieve gender equality and promote women’s empowerment across its fields of competence, UNESCO employs a two-pronged approach:

  • gender mainstreaming in all programmes and activities;
  • gender-specific programming.

In this context and for more than 30 years, UNESCO's science policy team has conducted studies on the role of women in science, the gender dimensions of policies related to the development and application of science and technology for sustainable development, and has supported the publication of one of the most comprehensive manual on gender indicators in science and engineering.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) began to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) gender indicators in 2006, following an innovative methodology. In 2007, the UIS, together with UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Sector, published the first international report on science, technology and gender.

Key UNESCO publications:

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