Every once in a while we bring up sustainable development – something that the United Nations has placed utmost importance on, in the hopes of delivering development goals that are to be met by 2030 (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development). Two fields that will play a vital role in achieving these goals are science and gender equality.
At GiveHer5, menstruation and gender equality are essential topics, and we keep finding new information in a bid to further conversation and public discourse so that it leads to progress via research and policy. The science of menstruation is something that requires female researchers, doctors and scientists spending a lot more time understanding the nuances with unfettered access to funds. Gender equality can be achieved when more light is shed on menstruation and how it impacts menstruators with regards to education, jobs, and other opportunities.
Over the last decade, there have been positive strides taken to inspire and encourage women in the field of science. Yet this is not enough as women and girls continue to be excluded in fully participating in the field of science. Currently, women researchers make up less than 30% of researchers globally. Data provided by UNESCO shows that in higher education, the percentage of female students option for STEM-related fields is only around 30%. Enrolment in ICT is at 3%, natural sciences, mathematics, statistics at 5% and engineering, manufacturing and construction at 8% – all meagre numbers.
The culprit for these poor numbers is that women and girls are fed up of continually being stereotyped by gender and faced with biases that drive them further away from science. This is not only true of real-world numbers but also reflects the portrayal of women in science on television and film. A study by the Geena Davis Institute called Gender Bias Without Borders showed that when on-screen characters had a STEM job, only 12% of these characters were women. Owing to these issues, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution and declared 11th February as International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This was done to achieve full and equal access in science for women and girls and to further both gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
The Commission on the Status of Women on the 14th of March 2011, at the 55th session, approved a report regarding access to the participation of women and girls in education, training and science and technology, and for promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. The General Assembly on the 20th December 2013, approved a resolution on science, technology and innovation for development where it acknowledged that full and equal access to and participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is crucial to achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
UNESCO’s efforts have been warmly welcomed by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other organisations that also support accessibility and participation of women in science, technology, and mathematics, training and research activities.
Celebrating this day is important to us because it gives us hope that when efforts are made to encourage women to take centre stage in science, it may pave the way for better quality research into menstruation and how to manage it. While menstruation is continually being discussed, there are a lot of mysteries and unanswered questions that remain. Having more women scientists who genuinely empathise with and understand other menstruators is always welcomed.