February 11th marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, implemented by UNESCO, UN-Women and a collaboration of institutions. On this day we celebrate women and girls who are leading innovations in science, technology and educational maths, as well as recognise how much they contribute to the developments of this world and all their achievements.
Gender equality still remains a global movement that threatens the progression of women and girls today and fuels the determination to overcome this divide. Long-standing biases and gender stereotypes continue to steer the female gender away from science-related fields and hinder all STEM developments. Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals and over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. With currently only 33% of researchers being female, there is an unprecedented amount of potential and skill sets yet to be unlocked, that unfortunately is barriered off.
This is supported by Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO who states “we need to ensure that women and girls are not only participating in STEM fields, but are empowered to lead and innovate, and that they are supported by workplace policies and organisational cultures that ensure their safety, consider their needs as parents, and incentivize them to advance and thrive in these careers.”
Without our medical heroines; society and advancements would not be where it is today. Dating back to the 1800’s we remain grateful to the ‘Lady with the Lamp’; Florence Nightingale for pursuing her ambitions in nursing, despite her family’s disapproval, to then go on to be the founder of modern nursing. We look to Marie Curie whom, if it weren’t for her, the further developments that have been made due to the founding and measuring of radioactivity, would not existent. We celebrate and admire the tenacity of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson with achieving the title of the first female surgeon in Britain and encouraging other women by co-founding the first hospital to be staffed by women. It is, however, cases like Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of the Double Helix DNA molecular structure, that drives the importance of women being noticed and respected within the STEM industry.
The theme for this years’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science is ‘Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19’. The theme shines a light on the underlining impact the global pandemic has had on the progress of women scientists who are at the early stages of their careers. The demand for expertise and staff has never been so high and the appreciation of women in STEM who are on the frontline is not going unnoticed. This being said, there is no better opportunity to empower women than with the success of Professor Sarah Gilbert, who designed the Oxford vaccine. This has marked a significant breakthrough in the current Coronavirus pandemic that is now a pivotal ingredient needed to increase the world’s chances of eliminating this horrific virus that has plagued the majority of 2020 and 2021.
Furthermore, this International Day continues to encourage millions of women all over the world; to follow their dreams, take pride in their skill sets, and have the confidence to thrive within the STEM industry. This is all done with a better understanding of the importance of their work and their valued contribution within the industry.