Striving for Gender Equality in STEM on International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Taylor Maine, Communications and Business Development Intern

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Students from The Innovation Academy for Women of the Americas (the Academy), a grant recipient of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund


Since 1964, Partners of the Americas has championed equal educational opportunities for all. In honor of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we would like to highlight the importance of supporting women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
According to the United Nations, only 35% of students enrolled in STEM related fields of study are women and only 30% of researchers internationally are women. While the number of STEM degrees women have received increased from 143,000 in 2009 to 212,000 in 2016, this only accounts for 32% of total STEM diplomas awarded in 2016.
This disparity can be cited in long standing gender stereotypes and can have huge negative implications in the future if not addressed, according to Microsoft research. A disinterest in STEM fields can be traced back to middle school. Girls generally begin to gain interest in science and technology around age 11, but by age 15 this interest tends to plummet.
This trend has been attributed to a number of factors, such as stereotypes that boys and men are more naturally suited for the STEM industry and a lack of support for young girls pursuing these types of interests. When women in the United States do take jobs in STEM, research shows that they are often paid less for their research, published less, and do not get as far as men in their careers.
Latin America and the Caribbean hold a higher percentage of women working in STEM fields than the United States. According to UNESCO, 45.4% of the STEM workforce in these countries is made up of women. However, the percentage of women in Latin America who are actually earning STEM degrees in post-secondary schooling is much smaller: 11% of graduates earning a degree in engineering, manufacturing, and construction are women, and 5% of graduates earning science degrees are women. Despite significant progress in the development of an equitable STEM workforce in Latin America, there is still more work to be done.


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To promote and celebrate the contributions of women and girls in STEM, the United Nations has recognized February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science since 2016. This year, the theme is Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Partners aims to bolster opportunities for girls and young women studying STEM through our 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund creates university partnerships through grants that provide educational exchanges and training opportunities to students across the Western Hemisphere. In May 2018, the Innovation Fund, with support from ICETEX, awarded the Universidad de La Salle in Colombia a grant to develop an initiative called Women4Peace. This program promotes the study of engineering, technology, and sciences among women in rural areas of Colombia to achieve a more peaceful and sustainable world. 


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In 2016 the Innovation Fund awarded a grant to the Innovation Academy or Women of the Americas (The Academy) to provide underrepresented and minority women the tools and connections needed to succeed in STEM fields, including a personalized mentorship program and the opportunity to meet accomplished women in their fields. Hosted by the University of New Mexico (UNM), in partnership with Universidad La Salle Mexico and Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan, the Academy continues to facilitate the academic and career advancement of women in New Mexico and Mexico, hosting a 2020 workshop in January. 
As the number of STEM-related jobs continues to increase by 13% from 2017-2027 and technological advancements play increasingly important roles in society, it is more important than ever for more women to study and pursue STEM to lead innovation and ground-breaking research. Partners joins the UN in calling for a decrease of the gender gap and supporting women's empowerment in the workplace and their communities.