20.03.2019 - New York Office

UNESCO Roundtable on Gender Gap in Science, Technology and Innovation


On the occasion of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) held at the United Nations Headquarters, UNESCO hosted a roundtable discussion entitled ‘What drives the gender gap in science, technology and innovation? And how do we close it?’ together with the Permanent Mission of Finland and GenderInSITE.

Supporting the inclusion of gender equality in national science, technology and innovation (STI) policies, this event showed some of these important initiatives and provided a comprehensive set of innovative approaches, tested good practices and policy guidance.

Welcoming more than 130 attendees, Marie Paule Roudil, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office in New York, opened the meeting by underlining that UNESCO shares the conviction that gender equality in STI stands at the heart of the 2030 Agenda as a cornerstone of sustainable development, peace and security, and as a driver of inclusion and empowerment. Gender equality is one of the two global priorities at UENSCO and the organization is playing a key role in promoting women and girls in and for science through initiatives such as the UNESCO-L’Oréal For Women in Science Partnership, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, the Cracking the Code report, the TeachHer initiative, and the STEM and Gender Advancement (SAGA) project

H.E. Ambassador Kai Sauer, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, emphasized the critical role that education plays in the promotion of gender equality, influencing men and women’s positions in the labor market. Finland is actively making efforts with respect to the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital economy. At all levels of AI design, development and regulation, the world needs more representative and diverse composition of stock. The development of AI service and products therefore cannot be left to a narrow segment of the population – male.

Alessandro Bello, Project Officer, UNESCO STEM and Gender Advancement (SAGA) project, presented a holistic approach to address the issue of under-representation of women in STI. He said that it is difficult to identify a single root cause to the problem. The gender disparity in STEM is associated with many aspects, including but not limited to education, career progression, research content and practice, policy-making, entrepreneurship and innovation, and social stereotypes/norms. The holistic approach concerns change of perceptions, access of women to STEM education and profession,  promotion of the gender dimension in research practice; and the promotion of gender equality in policy-making, entrepreneurship and innovation activities.

Roseanne Diab, Director of GenderInSITE, talked about gender dimension of global scientific leadership. GenderInSITE formally launched its report on “Pathways to Success: Bringing a Gender Lens to the Scientific Leadership of Global Challenges” at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 11 March 2019. “Pathways” thus identified six key themes: commitment to addressing a problem, refusing to give up, mentoring and role modelling, developing leadership skills, leveraging and building networking, and reshaping organizational cultures.

Duygu Sağ, UNESCO-L’Oréal International Rising Talent, addressed the barriers that women face in their pursuit of upward career. She advocates increasing the number of female role models in STI, and implementing family-friendly work policies, such as long and paid maternity leaves, paternity leaves, and flexible work hours and arrangements.

Throughout the event, the audience remained highly engaged and raised questions during a lively Q&A session, such as how to implement gender-responsive STI policies. Alessandro Bello emphasized that there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula, and concluded by stating that SAGA project has led to several serious policy interventions in different countries across the world.

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