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The Formula for Gender Equality: More Women in STEM-fields

June 16, 2022
By Anna Jardanovsky & Sophie Nedlin

When Katherine Jin was in high school, she was eager to take a computer science class. She was told that the boys in the class would be far better and she should instead focus on other subjects she might be good at. By ignoring the advice, Katherine went on to discover her interest in math and science, becoming later the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Kinnos, a company that produces simple ingredients that can reduce infection rates for emergency healthcare workers. Her achievements have been recognized worldwide, making her the face of United Nation’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Since 2021, the World Economic Forum observes an increasing rise in gender gaps in operational sectors, particularly those that require STEM skills. Hereby, women make up only 28% of the workforce in STEM-related fields, the discrepancy being particularly high in computer science (19%) and engineering (21%). 

It has been argued that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has the potential to provide productive participation of women in the labour market, equipping them with the necessary skills. Unfortunately, this potential remains largely unfulfilled, as the majority of women in developing countries are less likely than men to enroll in TVET and undertake jobs in STEM fields. 

For instance, when looking into the Philippines, no more than 30% of female graduates get involved in technical areas such as engineering or technology. Additionally, less than 4% of women acquire TVET qualifications in automotive, engineering, or electrical installation.

Overcoming the gender divide is essential in providing a full mobilization of human capabilities and thus a more resilient economy. Many countries have acknowledged that and initiated programmes aimed at increasing women’s participation in STEM. Korea, for instance, supports a research fund for female student research teams in material sciences and machinery, computers as well as architecture. Japan accelerates the efforts to support young female junior high and high school students to enroll in STEM careers by carrying out the Riko-challe project. And the European Union launched the Mind the Gap project in 2015 to bring together vocational education and training (VET) teachers and people working in gender, diversity and STEM-related subjects together to address the widening skills gap between men and women. 

Harnessing gender balance in TVET for prosperity

Technical and vocational education and training is an important tool for educating and ensuring a qualified, up-to-date, and gender-balanced labour force. It plays an important role when addressing current and future challenges, not only on a personal level by creating resilient citizens, but also on a global level by contributing to countries’ socio-economic development solutions.

TVET is arguably the closest educational tool to the labour market. Through technical education students can safely move from learning to earning, which can ultimately contribute to narrowing the income gap in the labour force. 

A success story

Through the project MISALE, Volvo, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have partnered to establish a state-of-the-art vocational training school for the training of trainers and commercial heavy vehicle drivers in Ethiopia to meet the growing demand from private transport companies. 

The project strives to equip the workforce with the skills in demand in a country where female commercial vehicle drivers represent only a minor fraction of about 0.5% of the entire driver population. Through targeted actions to empower women through specialized skills development, the project has improved their income level and contributed to a safer transportation service in the region.

Learn more about MISALE and how they contribute to narrowing the gender gap in skills development:

 

 

Partnerships for gender equality

UNIDO’s Learning and Knowledge Development Facility (LKDF) promotes demand-oriented skills development programmes for young people in developing and emerging industrial economies to achieve inclusive and sustainable industrial development. To achieve that it is essential that societies, the public and private sector, and international organizations focus on contributing to the 17 SDGs and incessantly support the 2030 Agenda. In the Decade of Action, it is time to accelerate joint actions that contribute to gender parity.

If you or your organization would like to take action, do not hesitate to contact the LKDF team at lkd-facility@unido.org to learn how to engage in partnerships, projects, and advocacy activities. Together, we can better embrace the challenges and foster development for a better future.

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