Women in STEM: Using digital technology to close the gender gap


Women in STEM: Using digital technology to close the gender gap

Although the world of science and technology is dynamic and ever-changing, one component of it—the gender gap that still exists today—seems to be standing still. According to a UNESCO Science Report 2021, women make up only 33% of all scientists today. This has long-term negative effects on women in addition to short-term negative impacts on society's advancement, innovation, and other areas.

Let's look into why women are so underrepresented in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). Numerous factors, including the gender stereotype that has persisted for decades in homes and educational institutions that boys are more suited for science and more likely to succeed in STEM-based careers, can be blamed for the poor engagement of girls and women in science.

People who hold this belief also hold the view that STEM fields and jobs are inappropriate for women to pursue because they are heavily male-dominated fields. Another reason why girls routinely miss out on the chance to go to school is cultural views such as the idea that investing in a boy's education would be more advantageous and yield higher returns.

These cultural attitudes and preconceptions have serious negative effects because they prevent women from taking advantage of the expanding economic opportunities brought on by the growth of digitised economies. It also produces damaging technology, such as algorithms that stigmatise job-seeking women.

According to Article 21-A and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, both of which took effect on April 1, 2010, they deny girls the fundamental right to an education. All children between the ages of six and fourteen are entitled to "free and obligatory" education under these Acts, making it a Fundamental Right. In order to address the education of girls, the present ruling regime launched the "Beti Bachao Beti Padhao" campaign for women's empowerment in 2015.

However, it was evident from the advertisements that misogyny rather than equality was the message being spread. The slogan "Kaise khaoge unke haath ki rotiya, jab paida hone nahi doge betiyan" (How will you eat the bread of their hands, when you won't permit daughters to be born) means "How will you eat the bread of their hands." Instead of promoting equality for girls and women and preventing female foeticide, the advertisement appears to support traditional gender norms.

The tactic used by Mexico that appears to be working is to tell parents and secondary school kids about the enormous demand for STEM-based professions and the wages associated with them. Concerns about whether such a vocation is appropriate for a woman tend to vanish once they have this knowledge.

The level of support, opportunities, and participation of women in science across various nations, including the European Union, the U.S.A., Brazil, South Africa, India, Korea, and Indonesia, was evaluated in a study by the National Assessments and Benchmarking of Gender, Science, Technology, and Innovation. According to the report, there is opportunity inequality since women have less access to resources including money, education, and technology, which eventually reduces their employability.

According to the World Economic Forum, men are more likely to get funding than women who work in research and technology. Additionally, according to the Harvard Business Review, as of 2020, only 2.3% of venture financing went to start-ups with female CEOs. The study also shows that women from nations that consider them as having poor social status and treat them like second-class citizens have disadvantages early in life and frequently receive inadequate medical treatment.

The article goes on to say that even when women enrol in science and technology programmes, about 30% are said to leave early due to insufficient flexibility for job schedules and child care. According to Sophia Huyer, "Countries with government policies that encourage childcare, fair pay, flexible employment, and gender mainstreaming" have better gender parity.

Achieving equality in opportunity and representation may be facilitated by such developments. The survey included health, social and economic status, access to resources and opportunities, societal policies including childcare, fair pay, and flexible work hours, as well as participation in decision-making when ranking the economies for gender equality. India came in last when all these considerations were taken into account. The low educational attainment and social standing of women in the nation can be blamed for this outcome.

Digital technology would be a modern way to work toward gender parity. By improving access to financial, identification, and information services, digital technology can close the gender gap. If women try to acquire grants and loans through digital transfer, they will have an easier time doing so since they may bypass societal norms that might operate as hurdles, such as the belief prevalent in many households that a male should oversee a woman's finances. Women are financially empowered by avoiding this.

Identification can also help a woman become more independent since it gives her access to financial services, enables her to stand up for her legal rights, and enables her to pursue government-promised benefits for either herself or her children.

Technology-enhanced improvements in human rights can also be achieved through social media. Numerous social movements, including HeForShe, MeToo, and others, have had profound consequences on everyone. Through the use of numerous digital platforms, cyberfeminist forums are able to mobilise people from all over the world to address the intersectional, complex, and varying feminist agendas that highlight the plight of women and creative solutions to systemic gender bias.

Digital activism provides advantages such as being quick, affordable and dismantling barriers as well as improving accessibility to powerful and influential people. However, encouraging free expression frequently leads to undesirable hate speech, including victim-blaming, discriminatory rhetoric, and more.

In STEM-related fields, gender balance would be advantageous for all parties. The European Institute of Gender Equality estimates that closing the STEM gender gap will increase employment in the EU by 850,000 by 2050. According to a study by the International Monetary Fund, women in the workforce contribute new abilities that not only boost overall economic gains but also enhance male pay.

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