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.
On November 10th the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 was published. This report is published every five years and presents a picture of the trends in global research and development, based on a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data.
If you ask any random person down the street, which is the mental image they have about a scientist, what do you think they would answer? What is your own personal idea of a scientist? Is it a young, promising female researcher in, say, applied mathematics? Or is it a gray-hair male professor in theoretical physics? Maybe a 15 year-experienced laboratory (lady) chief? A respectable bearded old man head of a psychology department? Is your image in white or is it colorful?
Science, unfortunately, as many other things in life, is not a prejudice-free area. Though it encourages some of the better qualities of human race, such as a selfless search for knowledge, or the understanding among different people for a greater cause rather than for personal benefit, or the innovation of technologies to make people’s life easier, it also sometimes reflects some of our worst mistakes.
Common believe lies upon the idea that until very recently, there didn’t exist female scientists who actually made world-changing contributions to science and technology. Though woman in science were not the majority in past times, there is a great deal of names that we should rescue from the trunk of memories.
Why, you may ask. Well, first because many of them never got the credit for their work or the proper reward they deserved. But second, and more importantly is because our young girls need females models to identify with, to overcome the idea that science is only a male-dominated business, in which they have no voice or future.
The mathematician Emmy Noether was one of the greatest minds of the XXth century. Her work was fundamental in the development of abstract algebra and theoretical physics. Credit: Courtesy of Drs. Emiliana and Monica Noether.
There has been much talk recently on gender equality. We heard UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) Opening Ceremony making specific mention to women’s rights. The Director-General has chaired multiple panels and endorsed several initiatives to address what she views as a human rights strategic item in UNESCO’s agenda for the 21st century. Indeed, there is a growing realization that the gender divide is pervasive throughout the ages and the cultures. Today, also in advanced societies, gender inequality knows no limits throughout socio-economic hierarchies; albeit, often with trace dosage, but with self-perpetuating, long-lasting consequences nonetheless.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General at the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 Opening ceremony. Credit: UNESCO/Nora Houguenade