Statement by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science


Science and innovation can bring life-changing benefits, especially for those who are furthest behind – such as women and girls living in remote areas, the elderly and people with disabilities. Science will also be essential for decent work and jobs of the future, including in the green economy, and it can create a market for women’s innovative ideas and products.

But we still have a long way to go to tackle the challenges that remain for women and girls in science. Less than 30 per cent of the world’s researchers are women, with studies showing that women in STEM are published less, paid less for their research and do not advance as far as men in their careers (UNESCO). We need to break gender stereotypes that link science to masculinity and expose young generations to positive role models; women engineers, astronauts and researchers. We need a dedicated strategy not only for increasing the representation of women in the talent pipeline for STEM jobs, but also for ensuring that they thrive, incentivizing them to remain in these high-paying jobs and institutionalizing organizational cultures that enable women to advance in these fields.

This year, we have an opportunity to work together across sectors to address these challenges. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), the most visionary agenda and roadmap for women’s and girls’ rights, we need to reflect on the ways in which the rapid spread of digital technologies has reshaped every aspect of public and private life in the decades since, and what this means for the ongoing struggle to achieve gender equality in science.

This is a vital part of UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign, which is assembling six diverse Action Coalitions to tackle the unfinished business of gender equality. One of these will be focused on ‘Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality’, with the aim of catalyzing action for game-changing approaches that provide new opportunities to women and girls, while addressing barriers to connectivity, digital inclusion and digital equality. In fact, science and data will be critical to all of the Action Coalitions in helping to analyze progress, connect with young people and partners around the globe and enact transformative change.

Generation Equality is also a chance to ensure that the business community, including those in the STEM sectors, has a stake in and a responsibility for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community. Through the Women’s Empowerment Principles, UN Women’s strategic platform for engaging the private sector, some 500 tech companies have already pledged to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in their institutions. This year, we call on science and tech companies to follow their steps; and for the investor community to steer their investments to companies that have adopted these Principles.

On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let us harness the power of innovation and technology as drivers of change, and work together to empower all women and girls across the science fields.