Women in science: access is crucial

 

Figure 1: Women as a share of total
science researchers in 2007 or latest available year. Calculations based on
head counts (HC) of full-time equivalents (FTEs).
 

Shocking statistics,
recently released by
the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), have uncovered a grossly under-developed
scientific resource lying in abundance within the arms of each low-income
nation: the brain power of their women.
Of the world’s total science
researchers, UNESCO estimates that only 27 per cent are female.

To put these statistics into context, 14.8
per cent
of all researchers in India are female, falling far behind the 33.9
per cent
of female researchers boasted by Europe. Male scientists outnumber
their female colleagues by more than two
to one
in both Chile and Mexico, and the same is true for most countries in
Africa. Only 5.8 per cent of researchers  in Guinea are women, making it the country
that experiences the most gender inequality in the field of science within
Africa.

This is not to say
that women play no significant roles in the individual domestic science
landscape of their countries.
Two African countries — Lesotho (55.7 per
cent) and Cape Verde (52.3 per cent) — have achieved
gender parity
for science researchers. Similarly, in Latin America and
the Caribbean women make up 45 per cent of the scientific workforce and in
Myanmar, colloquially known as Burma, the figure is reported to be as high as 85.5 per cent, well above the European average.

However, the impact that
women could have on science, particularly within developing countries, is not
yet fully explored. In general a lot of work is needed to encourage women to
advance careers in science as illustrated by the map above.
SciDev, the Science and Development
Network, has acknowledged: ‘improving
girls’ access to basic and secondary education — especially in science — is
crucial’
.

Open access publishing removes restrictive subscription
fees, subsequently challenging the geographical inequality experienced with
access to and use of high-quality scientific resources facilitating global
social and scientific development. However access alone is not enough. In order
to achieve gender equality within the global scientific community up-to-date
teaching methods across classrooms are essential to prevent girls from turning
away from scientific fields.

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