Science, research, and technology are increasingly relevant activities in the knowledge-based economy, and countries with a critical mass in these areas can better specialize in more dynamic sectors and become more competitive.
Despite their great relevance, the technological field is one of the sectors of the economy with the lowest female participation in the world, and particularly in Latin America, where employed women in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico are only one-third.
Why are there few women in science and technology?
The situation of women in science and technology can be explained as a vicious circle, according to a 2021 research by CIPPEC and Salesforce.
In broad terms, few women enter the scientific and technological field, and then those few face barriers that truncate their careers and leadership, strengthening glass ceilings.
In the educational stage, there are social and cultural norms that affect women's confidence and interest, adding to the misinformation about these types of careers and the lack of role models:
From childhood and adolescence, gender biases about women and hard sciences are reinforced.
There is no vocational guidance in childhood and youth.
In higher education, young women face a hostile environment in careers dominated by men.
In addition to being a minority, female university students usually do not find mentors in their teachers or instances of mentorship to receive support in the transition to the labor market.
In the professional development stage, the few women who enter CyT-related work environments have difficulties accessing, maintaining, and advancing in their careers:
As in all sectors of the economy, there is an imbalanced burden of care responsibilities.
Scientific promotion is based on male evaluation criteria and norms, for example, women's fertile age coincides with the instance of specialization and postgraduate studies.
The climate and culture remain hostile in masculinized environments, and women suffer greater discrimination, demands, and sometimes even harassment.
The lack of visibility of women in CyT reinforces stereotypes about what women can or cannot do, or in which areas they excel:
There is a lack of easily accessible information and disaggregated statistics by gender, geographic region, and ethnicity.
The cultural and symbolic representation of women in STEM is limited.
Public and private sector awards and recognitions have little, although growing, notoriety.
A more equal technological sector
To reduce the gender gap in science and technology, it is necessary to implement public policies and private initiatives at each stage of the vicious circle. Among them, perhaps the most accessible is the development of inspiring narratives that address girls, young women, adults, and society as a whole.
Women, as a diverse group, bring a rich variety of experiences and perspectives that have incalculable value and contribute to improving the quality of science and innovation.
Achieving gender equality is not only relevant for women: gender refers to the cultural practices and expectations that govern the expected, approved, and actual behavior of men, women, and dissidents.
With the fourth industrial revolution and demographic transition as context, CyT areas must become an opportunity for gender equality and greater economic freedom for women.