Although women constitute 50% of the population, there is still a lack of female representation in science, engineering, trades and technology. These fields have historically had a hard time attracting, recruiting and retaining women, and this underrepresentation has contributed to research with women (such as research on women’s heart health, for example) being decades behind.
The UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global strongly believes that research, outreach, education and awareness on the discrimination and barriers that females face in the sciences (and their continued underrepresentation in STEM-fields) must continue.
In celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the Chair and Mariana Garrido created posters that highlight women in graduate science programs as a means to inspire other women. Having role models in your chosen discipline has been shown to be an effective way of empowering and encouraging women to pursue further studies. This is a step to continue to target the UN Sustainable Development Goal #5 of Gender Equality, as it is known that countries advance towards sustainable development faster and better when women are educated. This ultimately leads everyone to live better lives.
Mature female students pursuing Canadian university degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects face discrimination and other barriers, says a Canadian Commission for UNESCO research report, titled: The Non-Linear Paths of Women in STEM: The Barriers in the Current System of Professional Training.
The report was authored by UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global Liette Vasseur, who presented it in a keynote address in Ottawa. A panel discussion was held on equity and inclusion in post-secondary STEM learning that included Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Mona Nemer following the keynote.
The report identifies six reasons why people don’t pursue a ‘linear’ university educational path, which typically moves from undergraduate to master’s to PhD with no or little break:
- New career options
- Need for more credentials
- Delay due to family reasons
- Need for family support
- Career prospect improvement
The report also makes number of recommendations, including:
- Improve information for mature students, especially on things like specific awards
- Take work experience more into account for mature student admissions
- Offer more online options, especially for early morning or evening classes
- Train professors and admissions staff on unconscious bias
- Remove age limits for scholarships and student employment programs