Women will get to equality in the end. The only question is, why should we wait?
Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, 2015
After the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995),189 countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that established a series of strategic goals to achieve gender equality, which were summarized in twelve critical areas – including Education and training of women.
Despite changes and improvements in women’s rights, twenty years later, no country has succesfully completed the programme. The following Infographic: Gender equality – Where are we today? shows the situation of inequality that women suffer in the XXI century. On this sense, the Beijing +20 campaign wants to boost the creation of new networks, streghtening political will and mobilize the population to achieve the Planet 50-50 goal by 2030.
Inequality in science could seem – due to the seriousness of the situation in other areas- a secondary issue. But equality, the Planet 50-50 goal by 2030, has also much to do with science. On the one hand, girls have the right to choose and fullfil thir professional goals following their own minds, moving away from stereotypes and prejudices that prevent them to follow STEM careers.
On the other hand, in a world with scarce resources, all knowledge counts: in addition to responsible consumption and respect for our planet, it is necessary to take action to get, for example, potable water in places with droughts, medicines that cure infections or location systems for people in situations of natural disasters. Without any doubt, these goals can only be achieved by investing in science and, of course, not leaving women behind by taking into account their ideas, skills, work, intelligence … and their rights.
To really achieve a Planet 50-50 by 2030 … also in science, it is not only necessary to encourage young women to undertake STEM careers. They may only follow that path if the closest people to them also understand the importance of science for society and how necessary it is that women participate under equal conditions.
For this reason, more and more initiatives promote the visibility of women who have accomplished outstanding scientific achievements since they are examples of tenacity and intelligence for both men and women, as well as the women that nowadays struggle to find their place in academia, a place often hostile to them.
The illustration below depicts the image that identifies one of these initiatives. The Mujeres con ciencia blog (in Spanish) run by the Cátedra de Cultura Científica de la Universidad del País Vasco-Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea. The illustration was made by a young artist, Itsaso Benedicto, who presented her idea in this way:
It represents the woman who investigates and discovers. At the same time she discovers herself. All that research emits light that gives us knowledge or clarifies what we do not understand.
Wikipedia contain few scientific biographies from femalel scientists, and those that exist are generally poorly documented. The growing number of Edit-a-thons to complete and generate new entries about women dedicated to science – or another disciplines – are essential because for many people what is not found in a quick search on this collaborative encyclopedia network, unfortunately, does not exist.
In this laborious task of remembering notable female scientists – history has forgotten so many women whose biographies have been irretrievably lost – it is essential that women and men work together.
Women who would lead science by 2030 are now being formed at different levels. On the one hand, there are women that are already engaged in scientific research, some of which should reach decision-making positions and leadership in their respective professions and the 50-50 quota in 2030. To ensure this, in places where science policies, grants and contracts are determined, there must be women. And on the other hand, we have the younger ones, those who have not yet decided what they want to study. We have to try not to frustrate them because among them we could find the scientist who understands the mechanisms that trigger Alzheimer’s disease or the one that find an Earth-Twin planet.
Marta Macho Stadler is professor at the University of the Basque Country-Euskal (UPV / EHU) and PhD in mathematics from the University Claude Bernard (Lyon, France). She specializes in geometric theory of foliations and noncommutative geometry. She is interested in the dissemination of science, collaborates in different blogs and is science editor of Mujeres con ciencia, blog run by the Cátedra de Cultura Científica de la UPV/EHU. In October 2015 she was awarded one of the Medals of the Royal Spanish Mathematical Society in its first edition.