UN: Women lag in technology and science

Women are behind in terms of employment in technology and science related fields and may also face obstacles to their career progression due to prevalent attitudes hindering equal gender balances, says the United Nations (UN).

In a statement yesterday (Monday), the UN drew attention to the issue of women’s representation in technology, condemning the underrepresentation of women in the field and calling upon member nations to take steps to ensure women are granted equal opportunities in technology and science related employment paths.

“Science and technology are advancing at a rapid pace, offering new opportunities in the workplace. Women, however, are in danger of being left behind. And that is a question of attitudes, not aptitudes,” said the International Labour Organisation (ILO) yesterday.

Breaking the issue down further, Claude Akpokavie of the ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities noted: “Women tend to be overrepresented in the humanities and social sciences, and underrepresented in science and technology.”

“Measures need to be put in place to redress this imbalance,” he added.

HumanIPO has reported before on the lack of female representation in the tech sector in Africa.

The ILO blamed prevalent attitudes with regard to women’s role in society, including preconceptions about employment considered appropriate for individuals of certain genders.

Jane Hodges, Director of the ILO’s Bureau for Gender Equality explained: “Stereotypes of girls represent them as less interested or capable in certain subjects – such as mathematics and science. This inevitably reduces their access to jobs with better pay or labour markets that may offer better opportunities.”

While women currently obtain over half of university degrees awarded in OECD countries, only 30 percent of technology and science degrees in the same region are earned by women. Furthermore, the UN claims that women hoping to progress into research careers are held back, representing on average less than 30 percent of the researchers active in OECD countries.

According to the ILO, as an estimated 500 million people will enter the workforce over the next decade, countries must be more active about incentivising women to enter the technology sector and encourage fair treatment of women with in the technology employment market.

“Only 10 to 20 per cent [of women in the technology workforce] are computer programmers, engineers, systems analysts or designers,” Hodge noted. “Education and skills training – and a change in attitudes – are vital to ensure women are not left behind.”

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