Let’s talk about Gender Equality in Science!

Sep 02, 2019

UNESCO and CRI – Center for Research & Interdisciplinarity gather forces to initiate a conversation on Gender Equality in Science with a presentation of UNESCO’s project named SAGA – STEM & Gender Advancement

On February 27th, 2019, a team from UNESCO along with researchers from CRI – Center for Research & Interdisciplinarity initiated a collaboration to share the principles and instruments of SAGA – STEM & Gender Advancement project. In order to celebrate shared interests on gender equality in science, a webinar was organized on CRI Campus in Paris, France by Cara Maesano (Sorbonne University, INSERM, “500 Women Scientists”), Anshu Bhardwaj (CRI, CSIR-IMTECH), Aya Gomaa (CRI) and Liubov Tupikina (CRI).

Dusan Misevic, Director of Research Affairs at CRI, kick started the event with a short introduction of CRI.


The scissors diagram clearly shows that at the global level, women drop out of scientific careers at the doctoral level and beyond … but WHY? What can countries, institutions, and individuals do to improve the situation?

Towards this, the SAGA project produced a new methodology and set of instruments to support policy-makers worldwide in setting up, implementing, monitoring and evaluating gender equality in STI policies, and worked with selected pilot countries to build capacity for data collection and policy gap analysis.

The project was presented by L. Anathea Brooks, SAGA Steering Committee and Alessandro Bello, SAGA Project Officer, UNESCO. During their presentations at CRI, they engaged the community to understand the knowledge, awareness and sensitivity levels of the audience towards gender bias via real time quizzes. The outcomes of this real time survey clearly demonstrated the impact of different thought processes and stereotypes and how complex the issue is.

Alessandro discussed two ways in which gender bias may be understood.

  1. The vertical segregation – the school to work transition is observed to be a limiting step with fewer women reaching high positions in their careers.
  2. The horizontal segregation – shows that only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields are women.

This clearly calls for building new approaches to introduce parity in science and to understand why we have not reached parity and gender equality in general? Alessandro explained to the audience the aim of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pointing out that none of these can be achieved without gender equality. Knowing that sustainable development requires more science and scientists, it also requires better science.

He listed several studies such as the “Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance” 2012 study of Credit Suisse Research Institute showcasing the 2360 companies that welcome on their Board of Directors at least one women. The results are significant: Board of Directors with at least one women out performed companies without any female board members by 26% over six years.

Both L.Anathea and Alessandro concluded by stating that the SAGA project has lead to several serious policy interventions across the world. They have also shared the latest version for recommendations on science and scientific researchers. More details on the project may be obtained from the SAGA database and GO-SPIN platform. Towards the end, changing social norms and stereotypes was identified as the top priority for intervention by audience poll. There was extensive interaction session followed by the presentations with audience both from the amphitheatre at CRI and the ones viewing the LIVE webcast. 

We believe that such interactions can go a long way by initiating dialogue with evidence based policy interventions and will definitely impact the equal representation of women in science at all levels of education and research.

L.Anathea initiated her talk by stating that the under-representation of women in STIs translated into a loss of a critical mass of talent. She further stated that the problem gets confounded by limited availability of methodology for evidence-informed policy making including monitoring of policies and instruments. L.Anathea acknowledged the support from Sweden on initiating the SAGA project that was aimed at building methodology, tools, capacity and policies to reduce gender gap at all levels of education and research. She also acknowledged SAGA partners like OECD, AAAS and UN Women, to name a few who were part of the global advisory board. L.Anathea focused on several important contributions made by the SAGA project like the standardization of terminologies in reporting data so that countries can perform comparison with other countries to clearly estimate the impact of policies to reduce gender bias.

We believe that such interactions can go a long way by initiating dialogue with evidence based policy interventions and will definitely impact the equal representation of women in science at all levels of education and research.



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