Women in Science

Gender Equality: ‘Greatest Human Rights Challenge in Our World’


Today, February 11, is Women and Girls in Science day. Therefore, we wish to take a moment to celebrate women and girls in science as well as female researchers.   

Few women in science and research

Women represent half of the population and more and more women are registering for university and are successful students. Yet, only thirty percent of the world’s researchers are women. All over the world, women researchers are a minority in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Most of the world’s female researchers work in the academic and government sectors whereas men tend to keep within the private sector. This trend is also valid for countries with a high share of women researchers. In Argentina fifty-two percent of the researchers are women, but only twenty-nine percent of these are employed in the private sector.

Thus, even though women represent half of the world’s potential and it has been shown that ‘empowering women spurs productivity and economic growth’ (UN), women and girls are still excluded from participating fully in science.

Science and gender equality are crucial for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Far from equal rights   

As for gender equality in general, it is since long a central human right, and lies at the very heart of human rights and United Nations values. Adopted by world leaders in 1945, the United Nations Charter promotes “equal rights of men and women”. According to this, protecting and promoting women’s human rights is the responsibility of all States.

But, UN Women warns, when it comes to equal rights for men and women, we still have a very long way to go. Our societies are far from securing that women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities ‘across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making. It is not until different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured’.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, says that ‘achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world’.

To rise to the challenges of the 21st century, we need to harness our full potential. That requires dismantling gender stereotypes. On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let’s pledge to end the gender imbalance in science.

Interesting facts and more to read

In Bolivia, women account for 63% researchers, compared to France with a rate of 26% or Ethiopia at 8%. Learn this and more at Women in Science (UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)), an interactive tool, helps you check out the gender gaps for yourself, by letting you explore and visualize gender gaps in the pipeline leading to a research career, from the decision to get a doctorate degree to the fields of science that women pursue and the sectors in which they work.

More about our research here