There is a crisis looming for women and girls in science.
Recent studies show that women make up only 28% of the workforce in STEM fields. In low-income countries, even fewer girls than boys choose STEM subjects, as gender norms pose a significant obstacle.
We believe that bringing everyone forward for sustainable and equitable development is essential. Yet we need to work together if we are to meet these ambitious goals.
On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we invite you to join us as we seek to transform education and the future of women and girls in science.
The world is evolving rapidly. The jobs of the future do not yet exist. Yet, we know that digital skills and technologies will have a critical place. We need young people with the skills to harness these future opportunities – not just in a handful of countries, but in all countries.
In Africa, we need all the talent we can muster to address the interconnected challenges we currently and will face in the 21st century, like building a sustainable and inclusive growth for all, fighting climate change or planning for the next pandemic.
The economic costs of not educating girls are colossal. A recent study, “Missed opportunities: The high cost of not educating girls” estimates that the limited educational opportunities for girls are costing countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings. Educating girls is therefore good for girls and women’s economic empowerment, but also a smart investment for the economy.
The private sector has a critical role to play
The years ahead therefore present a significant economic opportunity for growth, by ensuring that women and girls have the same opportunities as men to participate fully in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
We must keep at the forefront of global concern the nexus of gender equality, human capital development, future of work, and STEM. This is particularly crucial for Africa as it’s also how the continent will attain sustainable economic growth and social progress. One of the continent’s greatest needs is skilled human resources if it is to thrive and harness potential of the fourth industrial revolution.
As the future of work changes, with new jobs emerging at the frontier of economies, we can’t allow girls to miss out on the skills they need to become effective change-makers and drivers of their economies.
Private sector support for gender equality in education can yield rich dividends – it can unlock broader female participation in the workforce, and create a strong pipeline of future entrepreneurs, creating an ecosystem and setting a different tone for future generations.