Gender equality in science: From awareness to transformation

The science community cannot ignore the need to address inequities facing women in science.

Women researcher insects

While a large amount of research has been undertaken on how to improve the representation of women in science, there is still more to do. Towards this aim the ISC has initiated a project to gather and share data and evidence on effective policies and practices to advance gender equality in science organizations, and to build a network of international science organizations that are monitoring progress and working together to improve gender equality.

A survey of ISC Members undertaken in 2020 received feedback from 48% of ISC Academy Members and 63% of Unions and Associations, demonstrating the interest from Members in sharing best practice on improving gender equality. A report of the findings, including recommendations for further action, is planned for 2021.

A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical, Computing, and Natural Sciences: How to Measure It, How to Reduce It?

Women’s experiences in educational and employment settings are consistently less positive than men’s, according to the findings of a three-year ISC-funded project published on 11 February 2020, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

The project was led by ISC Members, the International Mathematical Union (IMU), through its Committee for Women in Mathematics, and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), and supported by nine other ISC Member unions and other partners. The project comprised three main areas of research: a data-backed study on publications, a global survey of scientists and a database of good practice.

The final report A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical, Computing, and Natural Sciences: How to Measure It, How to Reduce It? suggested four strategies in order to inspire young women to pursue careers in scientific fields:

  1. Engage families and communities in promoting STEM careers to girls, especially when these careers are contrary to cultural expectations and norms.
  2. Engage girls and women in exploring socio-scientific issues.
  3. Promote social support for women and girls, such as peer networks and mentoring by more experienced STEM researchers or professionals.
  4. Develop women and girls’ STEM leadership, advocacy and communication skills.

A Standing Committee on Gender Equality in Science has been launched to continue the work initiated within the project. In late 2020 the Committee warned that women scientists had been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those at an early stage of their careers, and called for all individuals and institutions engaged in science to join forces in supporting women colleagues whose research careers are jeopardized by the pandemic.

Image: Fabienne Meier via Flickr.

Next up: Combating systemic discrimination in science