STEM education as a stepping stone towards gender-transformative climate change policies

On the margin of the sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, UNESCO joined the Council of Europe, Italy, Austria, and the UK in organizing an online side event on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, entitled “STEM education as a stepping stone towards gender-transformative climate change policies.” The event takes place within the framework of Italy’s current Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Ms. Elena Bonetti, Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family, opened the event by emphasizing Italy’s unwavering support to gender equality in STEM education. Ministers from Austria and the United Kingdom, as well as representatives of the Council of Europe, delivered opening remarks affirming to break down gender stereotypes. Notably, the first G20 Conference on Women’s Empowerment held in Italy in 2021 concluded that the inclusion of women and girls in STEM disciplines is functional to the promotion of a gender perspective in the development of the technologies necessary for energy transition, environmental preservation, and the fight against climate change.

Ms. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Science, shared the findings of the UNESCO Science Report that women have largely achieved parity among graduates in life science, but they still make up only 28% of engineering graduates. Inclusive STEM education will advance the global agenda for gender equality, climate change, and water management. For instance, UNESCO has devised a set of disaggregated indicators specifically for the water sector to guide and assist national policymakers to consider gender equality. She endorsed a new pedagogic way of encouraging girls to follow STEM education in schools, which was developed in partnership with Microsoft.

Panelists representing governments, academia, civil society, youth, journalists discussed ways to increase girls’ take-up in STEM fields and women’s career advancement and maintenance in STEM research fields. Climate solutions are underpinned by the research of STEM professionals as well as social science professionals who take into account social interpretation and contextual considerations. In this setting, gender equality policies and strategies, such as the Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy for 2018-2023, are indispensable in creating more women-friendly STEM research working environments and careers. Speakers urged to increase the integration of gender considerations in emerging policy and programming on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

 

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