Feb. 11 marked the sixth annual celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which was celebrated virtually.
International Day of Women and Girls in Science was established Dec. 22, 2015, as a partnership between UNESCO and UN-Women. The day focuses on inclusivity and representation of women in science and technology communities.
Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN-Women, released a joint statement about the importance of actively challenging the gender barrier.
“To be truly transformative, gender equality policies and programmes need to eliminate gender stereotypes through education, change social norms, promote positive role models of women scientists and build awareness at the highest levels of decision-making,” they wrote.
In order to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a virtual assembly was hosted by the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT).
The theme for the event was “Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society” and featured several notable scientists, including Mona Minkara.
Minkara, assistant professor of bioengineering at Northeastern University and director of the “Writing Science in Braille” program, spoke on a panel about the importance of inclusivity for visually impaired women in science.
Minkara is a blind scientist, and she has made significant scientific contributions in the field of computational chemistry.
“Your disability or difference is not a hindrance,” Minkara said. “Rather, your unique perspective and abilities can lead you to innovate and take your field in a different direction.”
Nisreen El-Hashemite, executive director of RASIT, formally launched the “Writing Science in Braille” global campaign at the assembly, which marked an important milestone for inclusivity regarding blind or partially blind scientists.
The assembly also discussed sustainability and how to bring science and humanities together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030.
The program for the event describes this section of the event, reading, “This Panel brings multi-stakeholders in a dialogue to identify the conditions and proposes tools to put Science, Technology, and Innovation at the heart of sustainable development programs, international relations and public and private sectors policies.”
Gender equality is the fifth goal in the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030, and the assembly looked at how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted this.
According to the Sustainable Development Goals website, in 2020, women represented only 25 percent of pandemic-related leadership roles in national parliaments and 36 percent in local government.
Disproportionately, women make up over 70 percent of health and social workers on the frontlines of COVID-19.
Lockdowns are also increasing the risk of violence against women and girls by around 30 percent in some countries.
The assembly discussed these numbers while also raising awareness for the overlooked perspectives in the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel prepared for future health responses.
Evelyn Platner, junior in agronomy, said it is important to continue to encourage women to pursue science.
“We bring different perspectives and a set of ideas to the table that wouldn’t have otherwise been expressed,” Platner said. “It is important to continue to encourage young girls to engage in STEM-related career paths because they will help shape the future to be more inclusive.”
Platner’s words were echoed by Azoulay and Mlambo-Ngcuka.
“Women scientists are a source of inspiration for young girls around the world eager to enter the scientific field,” they wrote in their statement. “Today, as we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, it is our duty to pave the way for them, to build a fairer and more equal future.”