Science, defined as the study of the physical and natural world, is integral for both the survival and development of societies around the globe. Science is everywhere; in the food we eat, the technology we use and the medicine we depend upon. With scientific study, we can gain a better understanding of the world around us, find solutions to the challenges we face and shape the future of our communities.
Through study and discovery, communities can continuously evolve. Our own experience of the world is constantly reflected in the research we choose to do. First-hand experience of a particular disease, for example, may encourage us to search for a remedy to the illness it causes, or a vaccine that can prevent it all together. Living in a community affected by severe drought might inspire us to seek new methods of irrigation or different techniques to engineer crops. Women constitute almost half of the world population and their experiences often differ from men, yet they are consistently underrepresented in scientific research, their voices conspicuously absent from crucial studies and debates.
Efforts have been made to make science more inclusive but there remains a significant gender disparity, with the fields of science, technology and innovation frequently dominated by men, leading to untapped potential and biased learning. UNICEF estimates, for example, that only 30% of research staff from across the globe are female. Those who are able to pursue a career in STEM – or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – often earn less than their male counterparts and find it more difficult to publish their work.
Unfortunately, Ghana is no exception. Great strides have been made in recent years to improve female education, with more girls enrolled in early education than ever before. Many girls, however, do not continue to higher education, and even fewer choose to pursue careers relating to science. They are hindered by established biases and gender stereotypes, often encouraged to study subjects considered more appropriate for women. Far more women than men, for example, enrol in classes relating to Home Economics, General Arts or Administration. The gender divide becomes even more apparent in poorer, more rural communities, with many girls only completing four years of education before leaving school to help out at home or start a family.
At World Inspiring Network, we are committed to promoting inclusivity in education, irrespective of gender, and want to acknowledge the importance of the 6th International Day of Women and Girls in Science, introduced by the UN, and celebrated this year on 11th February. On this day, individuals and organisations around the world campaign to narrow the gender divide, coming together to celebrate the contributions of women.
There are many fantastic organisations in Ghana working to increase female involvement in science. STEM clinics have been implemented in many communities, enabling young girls to meet with female scientists. These “clinics” inspire interest in STEM subjects, and help to diminish gender stereotypes and limitations stipulated by tradition. Single-sex schools have also been established, with new-styles of teaching implemented, specifically tailored to encourage girls to pursue science. It is so crucial that these efforts continue.
Throughout history, women have been integral to our scientific development, leading innovation and contributing to ground-breaking research. They have crafted life-saving medicine, explored the universe and discovered radioactive elements. They have broken the sound barrier, discovered the existence of dark matter and have helped us to understand DNA. On 11th February and on every other day, we pledge to recognise the invaluable contribution of women to science, honouring their legacy by campaigning for greater inclusion in education, and the eventual eradication of the gender gap.