Worldwide, only 3 in 10 women major in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and only 35.5% of them are students in related jobs, according to UN figures. For this reason, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on February 11 every year, is a date that calls us to reflect on the essential role that women play in the scientific and technological progress of our society.
In Chile, figures provided by the Undersecretary for Higher Education in mid-January indicate that the number of women selected for STEM careers increased this year by 16.8% compared to 2023, raising female participation from 27.2% to 30.2%.
This result represents an important achievement if we compare the data of the National Council of Education published in November 2022, which shows that the percentage of women’s presence in this field did not exceed 25% from 2002 to 2022.
Although we are seeing gradual, undeniable progress in women's participation, there are still deep gaps that we as a society must work together to resolve.
A more universal fact that provides greater context for the current gap is that Nobel Prizes in science have been awarded to women: since their inception, the prize has been awarded to them 65 times, of which only 27 have been awarded. In the categories of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Economics.
The outlook in our country is not very encouraging: only four women have been recognized with the National Prize in the field of natural sciences and exact sciences.
Addressing this challenge is linked to a key factor when bringing girls closer to the world of science: we need to inspire younger generations of women early on to choose this field of knowledge in their professional and practical development.
Families, schools, government, academia, and businesses must work together to provide new female role models as well as break down cultural biases that perpetuate the idea that some fields are more suitable or easier for men, historically reserving girls for those tasks related to service, management, education, or caring for others.
To achieve this, it is necessary to strengthen mentoring programmes, support networks and equal pay policies that recognize and value female talent and their contribution at all levels of science, technology, medicine, engineering, research and innovation.
The inclusion of women in these fields is not only a reflection of justice and equity, but it also enriches innovation, by taking advantage of the creative potential and diversity of approaches that men and women offer to solve the various challenges facing the world today, including… Climate crisis. Moreover, active female participation will facilitate greater career prospects and better wages in the future, which will help reduce gender gaps and enrich society as a whole.
Head of Communications at WPD Chile