21.03.2018 - New York Office

Empowering Rural Women in Engineering Fields


New York: On Wednesday, March 21st 2018, UNESCO, WomEng and WFEO hosted a side event entitled “Empowering Rural Women in Engineering Fields”.

UNESCO in collaboration with WomEng and WFEO hosted a side event entitled “Empowering Rural Women in Engineering Fields” during the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62). The event aimed at highlighting the underrepresentation of women in engineering and STEM fields, and the need for action on this issue to achieve sustainable development.

Moderated by Ms. Rovani Sigamoney (UNESCO’s Engineering Programme Specialist), the event brought together panelists that represented a variety of organizations that focus their efforts on empowering rural women. Ms. Sigamoney described how according to the UNESCO Science Report (2015) , women across the world are significantly underrepresented in engineering fields and typically make up only 10-20% of the engineering workforce. To address this issue, UNESCO launched their UNESCO-L’Oreal for Women in Science initiative that works towards getting women around the world more involved in STEM and engineering activities.  

The panelists also discussed important initiatives undertaken by their respective organizations. Ms. Hema Vallabh (Co-founder of WomEng), emphasized the importance of encouraging girls at young ages to maximize their potential, and discussed how WomEng and UNESCO are trying to achieve this through their #OneMillionGirlsinSTEM initiative and “Pink Hard Hat Challenge” that fights stereotypes about women in STEM fields. Similarly, Ms.Renetta Tull (Director, Graduate & Prof. Pipeline Development at the University System of Maryland) talked about the importance of engaging women and girls in engineering coursework, and encouraging them to become professors and mentors in this field. Mr. Alfonso Alberto Gonzalez Fernandez (President of World Council of Civil Engineers) proceeded to share examples of outreach programs undertaken by WCCE that focus on capacity building and helping women build skills in water and sustainable housing.

Ms. Jessica Rannow (Past President of the Society of Women Engineers) described the growing global network of the Society of Women Engineers, and how their efforts aim at creating a collective environment at institutions that encourage women to enter engineering fields.  Ms.Jennifer DeBoer (Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University) added by sharing her experience with integrating engineering education in international contexts, specifically for women situated in rural areas. Lastly, Ms.Bamini Jayabalasingham (Senior Analytical Product Manager at Elsevier) presented key statistics outlining the underrepresentation of women, and described Elsevier’s efforts to achieve an inclusive and equitable environment across the research pipeline.

With engineering playing a key role in innovation and the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), it is vital to encourage women and girls to enter into this field. UNESCO remains committed to promoting STEM fields among women and girls, and continues to integrate education and science at the heart of its work.


To watch the full meeting, visit here.

Read the event concept note here.

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