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UNESCO Science Report Gender Parity

UNESCO Science Report is a leading publication that discusses the interaction of science, its transition towards a greener, digitally connected society and public policy. In the last few years, the world has made critical progress as digitalization and technology penetrate our lives. But has the technology created an inclusive society? How has gender parity measured over these years? How are different countries measuring comparatively on the research and innovation parameters? UNESCO Science Report: the race against time for smarter development tries to address these questions. The framework of seventeen sustainable development goals is a critical enabler for social change and impact catalyzing far-reaching synergies between multiple actors within the global arena. UNESCO report targets —- policymakers, intergovernmental and non-governmental entities, academicians, media, and other actors to understand the pathways of different geographical regions in their journey for a better- networked tomorrow.

These pathways include asymmetries and distortions leading to prevailing inequalities within the global ecosystem. For example, 80% of the countries covered spend less than 1% of their GDP on Research and Development. A sound R&D is the backbone of a more responsive and just society but only 32 countries raised their research spending by 0.1% of GDP or more between 2014 and 2018.

Graph Data Source UNESCO | The middle Road 

Note: GERD figures are in PPP$ (constant 2005 prices). Many of the underlying data are estimated by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics for developing countries, in particular. Furthermore, in a substantial number of developing countries data do not cover all sectors of the economy.

As technology sophistication increases over time, a more prudent approach for wellbeing and economic growth is to increase focus on R&D, quality education, and equitable healthcare. These initiatives drive gender equality, reduce the unemployment rate and increase productivity over the long run, issues that if ignored cause social upheaval and discontent within humankind.

UNESCO Science Report – Gender Parity 

Gender Equality is one key area where a lot of progress has been made in many countries covered. Globally, women have achieved parity (45–55%) at the bachelor’s and master’s levels of study and 44% at the Ph.D. level but the parity reduces as women pursue their careers. Women are also gaining in research as a profession; women researchers were one-third of all researchers in 2018, up from 28.4% in 2013. But this figure comes with a caveat.

Conundrum — The data shared by UNESCO Science Report on Gender Parity  is insightful. Women as a share of total researchers in headcounts in percent are low for high income or advanced economies and low-income countries while both upper and lower-middle-income countries figures are much closer to parity. Refer to the graph on the right. In 2018, the figure was 33.78% for the EU, 50.24% for the Caribbean, 49.77% for Latin America. The percent for the US is not available. France and Germany’s share is 28.29% and 27.88% respectively while in Indonesia women as a share of total researchers in headcount is 45.78%, higher than that of World at 33.25%. This suggests high-income countries have more work to do in enabling social change and impact within the gender equality lens keeping other factors constant.

Data Source UNESCO | The middle Road.  Note: For the UNESCO data. Researchers are counted in full-time equivalents (FTE). Global and regional estimates are based on the available FTE data for the countries. The share of female researchers is based on available headcount data for the most recent year between 2015 and 2018. See Table 1.1 for regional terms.

However, the advent of the fourth digital industrial revolution could widen this gap.

Girls Who Code is an excellent initiative in addressing challenges posed by digital proliferation by educating girls at a younger age. 37% of computer scientists in 1995 were women but today the percentage is 24%. Research shows that the teens are the most influential years for promoting computing skills and Girls Who Code targets this segment, aiming to reduce the gender gap in entry-level jobs by 2030. To date, the organization has reached 500 million people with half of them from underrepresented and low-income sections of the society. The pandemic has both been a disrupter and in lesser ways an innovator especially in leveraging technology as a tool for delivering education. The open science movement is one such area. 



The open science movement is a critical enabler that the report discusses. Latin America, EU are model regions. SciELO, a science-focused online library, provides free scientific communication for developing countries facilitating ease of distribution of scientific know-how. Open science platforms like that in Africa and other countries are the future but require a global buy-in. There is a wide disparity between the topics of publication with a positive skew towards artificial intelligence and robotics in 2019. About 1,50,000 publications were on this topic in 2019, a fact that might not be surprising given artificial intelligence’s increasing utility in understanding consumer behavior. The UNESCO Science Report is a collection of thought-provoking research across diverse topics within the science realm sharing a broad understanding over years from 2014 to 2018.

The topic of science would be a recurring feature and this kick starts the everlasting series on this topic.

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