11/02 – International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Hello readers,

So I am really excited about today, I decided to put my thoughts down on Women in Science and I hope you take something from it. Please let me know your thoughts and contributions to this topic in the comment section.

The eleventh day of February was declared as the international day for women and girls in science by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2015. The UN resolution decided to celebrate this day to encourage the participation of women and girls in fields related to science and technology and to achieve gender equality and education for all. The theme for 2019 is Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth.

This day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and their contributions need to be celebrated.

Now, this celebration is very important because a lot of young girls are discouraged from science disciplines. Even though the history of science has a lot of men in it, there have been a number of “hidden figures” that have contributed to the understanding of our world today.

Some of the reasons I feel women are fewer in the sciences are:

  • Stereotype and Bias – Science was once said to be inherently masculine, it was a “man’s world” and consequently led to bias and discrimination against women in STEM from their male counterparts. Sometimes staying in an environment where you always have to prove yourself can be unhealthy and then women step out.
  • Marginalisation – Some reports have shown that women in faculty positions are being paid less than their male colleagues which can be frustrating and discouraging. Also, this is not healthy and the ladies step out.
  • Childcare and Family – “If you are always in the lab, who will care for your kids?” A relative asked me that question in 2017 and I was so upset. If she had the chance to make me do an “easier” course, I believe she would. Girls are always made to make their life choices always considering that they will have a family to take care of. This should stop. She can do both.
  • Lack of Encouragement – Due to all these other factors and more, women are often discouraged from taking science disciplines and there is usually little or no source of encouragement to make them follow their dreams.

In the world today, less than 30% of researchers are women (29% are women). I looked up the data from UNESCO and it was indeed shocking. Female researchers in the UK made up to 39%, South Africa, 45%, Nigeria my beloved country has 23% of its researchers as female. Although this is better than previous years, we still have a long way to go.

A number of organisations have made efforts to encourage more girls and women to take up science careers as a majors and this is a great step. But more can be done, in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goals four (SDG4) and five (SDG5). We do not have to wait for major organizations to do it.

In my humble opinion, we can all get involved in bringing more girls into science related fields by:

  • Mentorship – We need more women in science disciplines to mentor younger girls and let them see that a woman did it so they can do it too and even better. A lot of times, programs are organized for younger girls in different categories like “Women in Finance”, “Women in Fashion”, “Women in Business”, etc. (Do not get me wrong, these are good causes as well)  What is always missing? Women in Science. I always look out for platforms and conferences where female scientists can mentor younger girls like me but it is rare (at least in my part of the world).
  • Encouraging parents and societal support – Parents can play a major role in a child’s career choice. Some parents discourage their girls from pursuing science disciplines. Please do not tell a young girl not to follow her dreams because she will need to take care of children. She can do both.
  • School Outreaches and Proper guidance and counselling – Speaking to secondary school girls about various science disciplines and what they can do with science and not just professional courses can go a long way. A lot of secondary school students in and out of science classes are ignorant of many other science courses and career paths available. They are limited in knowledge to about three or four popular professional courses that may not be their thing. A number of my friends wish they were spoken to when they had to pick a course to study in the university. We can speak to them early, so they know better.

So one can ask, why do we need to have more women in science?

The importance of diversity and equality in science cannot be overemphasized, I believe everyone should be given an opportunity to speak and be heard.

Equal opportunity means everyone will have a fair chance at being incompetent

Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Equality and diversity in STEM should be encouraged because each person provides a unique perspective. When we have a diverse talent pool, the individuals are seen, accepted and heard, they are therefore motivated to unleash their potential.

Equality inspires creativity and drives innovative ideas.

Well, who knows who has the cure for cancer in their pockets?

 Even the natural eco-system supports diversity as it is the product of the interaction between various organisms and the environment.

I have been lucky enough to be mentored by intelligent women which is very exciting and encouraging. Just in case you are a lady in science and you need some motivation or you just want to know some of the ladies making moves, there are so many outstanding inspirations in science history, from the likes of Marie Curie, Maria Mitchell, Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace, Mileva Maric, Grace Hopper and Barbara McClintock to our more recent Valentina TereshkovaGillian Bates, Jennifer Doudna, Sara SeagerSeema Bhatnagar, Grace Oladunni Taylor, Stella Ifeanyi Smith and the list can go on.

Let us endeavour to celebrate the women and girls we know in science, so they do not give up and can in turn motivate others.

So happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science and thank you for reading.


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