My parents are scientists. My mother has a background in chemical engineering and a PhD in gene therapy and my father is an immunologist; the two of them have lived and breathed empirical evidence since NASA started slinging people to the moon. In a microcosm like this where nobody in the household needed to fight for equality because it was already ingrained, it never occurred to me that there was a professional and educational gender gap outside our four walls. Well, not until I joined the workforce.
In 2020, I’d have liked to believe in a world of implicit gender parity the way I did when I was eight years old, where we’d collectively celebrate “People in Science” because women in science weren’t still a minority requiring their own distinct day. Five years ago, February 11th became The International Day of Women and Girls in Science by resolution of The United Nations General Assembly(1) which paradoxically serves to remind me that on the order of gender equality, we’re not quite there yet.
Men still grossly outnumber women among those pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).(2) These numbers are even more skewed for women of colour. But my hope and my belief is that our presence as minorities in the fields above could shift so wholly toward a point of equality where we’d no longer require special acknowledgement of our technical enterprise -the way male politicians and businessmen don’t need special recognition of theirs.
So, how do we get there? I can think of a few ways:
1. Hire high potential women and retain them by recognizing their value and showing interest in their development and long-term success through fair and supportive evaluations, timely promotions, and ongoing investment in their education.
2. Pay them equally and pay them for the type of women’s professional work that so often goes uncompensated, e.g. informal favors, social organizing of colleagues.
3. Support women in becoming leaders through mentorship and training programs and acknowledgement of the value of women’s unique types of leadership.
4. Give women a safe and empowered platform to be seen and heard in educational and work spaces.
5. Support the family unit, which includes generous maternity and paternity leave, ample childcare options, and flexible work schedules conducive to family life.
6. Encourage those in leadership positions to openly uplift women.
While today I support and acknowledge the value of an internationally dedicated day to Women and Girls in Science, I look forward to a future where women in STEM will be so equivalently a part, that the need for formally explicating our position will naturally fade away.
Because every day will be our day.
1. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 22 December 2015. Seventieth session Agenda item 22 (b). General Assembly, United Nations. Retrieved 2019-10-25. https://undocs.org/A/RES/70/21...
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