The world urgently needs more female engineers and computer programmers, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has said.
UNESCO stated this in its Science Report: Towards 2030”, released ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, marked annually on Feb. 11.
The report says the world needs science and science needs women, however, showing that women are increasingly graduating with life science degrees but are still rare in engineering and computer science, especially in developed economies.
“An analysis of computer science shows a steady decrease in female graduates since 2000 that is particularly marked in high-income countries.
“This should be a wake-up call,” UNESCO said.
“Female participation is falling in a field that is expanding globally as its importance for national economies grows, penetrating every aspect of daily life,” the report stated.
The share of women graduates in computer science between 2000 and 2012 slipped in Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the U.S., as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean, it said.
The share of women working as engineers is also higher in some developing countries, with increases observed in sub-Saharan and Arab countries, according to the report.
It said women in the United Arab Emirates, for example, had benefited from national policies that promote training and employment of Emirates citizens, and in particular women.
“Women now account for 53 per cent of world’s bachelor’s and master’s graduates in science and 43 per cent of PhDs, according to the UNESCO report.
“Since 2000, there has been a steady increase in female graduates in agricultural sciences, likely driven by an emphasis on national food security and the food industry.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, female graduates in agricultural science have been increasing steadily, with women comprising 40 per cent or more of graduates in Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
“Medicine is also a field increasingly popular with women, with six out of 10 researchers being women in both medical and agricultural sciences in Belarus and New Zealand, for instance.”
In research, however, it said women still lag men at 28 per cent.
The figure fluctuates geographically with women in Southeast Europe are on par with men, and at 44 per cent in Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the report, the numbers are particularly low in the EU, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
To encourage women and girls to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the UN said it has organised a number of events around the world.
In 2016, UNESCO and the L’Oréal Foundation launched the manifesto For Women in Science, to engage governments and stakeholders in promoting the full participation of girls and women in science.