Gender diversity in STEM key to achieving SDGs

Maasai woman taking solar lessons 3
Copyright: Dieter Telemans / Panos

Speed read

  • The sustainability of SDGs hinges on promoting gender diversity in STEM projects
  • But lack of framework that gauges effectiveness of gender diversity is a concern
  • The IMF plans to implement a project to assess gender budgeting in initiatives

Send to a friend

The details you provide on this page will not be used to send unsolicited email, and will not be sold to a 3rd party. See privacy policy.

[CAPE TOWN] Organisations involved in funding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Africa should improve gender diversity in the programmes they support, experts say.
By promoting and rewarding the inclusion of diversity and gender analysis in research, collaborating institutions can be agents of change and help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Robust policy systems and governance strategies for enhancing the SDGs’ sustainability in science should involve a synergy of actors working together to promote gender diversity,” said Peggy Oti-Boateng, coordinator of the Kenya-headquartered African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI), a regional non-profit organisation that was formed by the UNESCO.

“Robust policy systems and governance strategies for enhancing the SDGs’ sustainability in science should involve a synergy of actors working together to promote gender diversity.”


Peggy Oti-Boateng, African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI)

Oti-Boateng added that nine out of 17 SDGs require science and technical input, in addition to goals specifically calling for gender diversity.
“They are global goals, and require united African involvement,” she said at Gender Summit 5 Africa, a global even held in South Africa, last week (28-30 April).  “In this context, we must look ahead and plan a research agenda that feeds into these development goals and encourages and embraces gender.”
Describing the value of international collaboration, Oti-Boateng affirmed that cooperation among all actors, including policymakers, development partners, scientists and communicators is imperative for progress.
She elaborated on UNESCO-supported ANSTI funding and academic programmes, including the UNESCO-L’Oréal Fellowship for Women in Science. The fellowship has as of this year recognised over 2,710 women, including two Nobel Prize winners, in 110 countries.
But Beverley Damonse, acting CEO of the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa, remarked that challenges and barriers remain even after funding initiatives or bilateral agreements are made. The NRF works with local and international partners to provide internships and scholarships, amongst other science and technology-based programmes.

“We need to develop policies and processes for local level actors to support researchers in countries that are supported by funding agencies themselves,” she said.Furthermore, the lack of a framework with which to gauge the effectiveness of gender initiatives was acknowledged. To that end, Lisa Kolovich, an economist with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), noted her organisation’s plans to establish the first comprehensive assessment of gender budgeting initiatives. This will be done under the IMF and UK Department for International Development (DFID) Macroeconomics of Low-income Countries research project started in March 2012 and is expected to be complete in 2017.
The two-year project would provide an assessment of gender in budgeting and whether initiatives have led to changes in women’s development and fiscal policies. The IMF would also generate a publicly available toolkit to encourage further research.
“This is a springboard for researchers, ministers of finance and other officials to assess gender budgeting,” said Kolovich. “It’s a way to wake up countries about what they’re doing, and what they can do, in comparison to others.”

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.