13.03.2017 - New York Office

Promoting women’s empowerment in engineering


New York: On 13 March 2017, within the context of the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women, UNESCO and WomEng held the side event entitled “Empowerment of Women in Engineering in the Workplace and Launch of the Million Girls in STEM Campaign”.

Moderated by Rovani Sigamoney (UNESCO), the event focused on the importance of promoting women’s empowerment in engineering world. In her opening remarks, Marie Paule Roudil, Director of UNESCO Liaison Office New York, emphasized that empowering women in engineering is fundamental to give young girls the right information to make better decisions for their future careers, decrease gender gaps in the field and make technology accessible. The underrepresentation of women in engineering was stressed as an alarming factor to be solved in UNESCO’s 2015 Science Report and UNESCO’s ONE Million Girls in STEM Campaign has already reached thousands of girls in Africa.

The importance to give young women the opportunity to know the different professional careers they can have and the need to have adequate governmental plans to involve them in this pathway was highlighted by Susan Shabangu, Minister of Women in the Presidency of South Africa.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, emphasized the need to focus on breaking down stereotypes to eliminate societal obstacles that prevent young girls from pursuing engineering careers, as well as the importance of motivating them through strengthened education and training. Similarly, Executive Director of DiscoverE, Leslie Collins, underscored the importance of role models to encourage young girls, and called attention to the celebrations around the next Global Day of Engineers (April 5th).

Matt Blakely, Executive Director of Motorola Solutions, stressed the need to increase the number of engineers in the companies and that this require the inclusion of women. Increasingly, research is showing that diversity in a team, both gender and background diversity, is a positive factor for creativity and productivity. The persisting low numbers of women in engineering in developing countries and the need to make these numbers increase, was discussed by Marlene Kanga, President-Elect of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), who expressed the importance of changing cultures in the workplace. Renetta Tull, Associate Vice Provost at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) also emphasized the need to encourage young girls and promote diversity and stressed the importance to pay attention to both the professional and personal situation of women.

Eileen M. Lach, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), elaborated on the importance of technology to manage the substantial needs of the future and how this makes the empowerment of women a societal imperative that need to be achieved. IEEE, in partnership with International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and Teachers TryScience, have developed the online learning courses “Try Engineering” and “Try Computing” to develop engineering capacity skills of young women.

The meeting officially launched the One Million Girls in STEM Campaign by UNESCO and WomEng. Soon, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills will be as important as literacy to communicate with technology in an effective way. This campaign aims to encourage more young women to consider careers in STEM fields, especially engineering, and to remove the preconceptions of such careers. Through this Campaign UNESCO and WomEng will commit to reach 1 million girls through STEM education and awareness initiatives in at least 10 regions, in the next 10 years.  

Useful Links:

UNESCO Science Report 2015


Global Day of the Engineer

World Federation of Engineering Organizations


Online Course “Try Engineering”

Online Course “Try Computing”

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