MINISTER of Education Anthony Garcia says, despite the many obstacles women have historically faced in male-dominated areas, they have made significant contributions to science and technology.
He was speaking yesterday at a one-day symposium titled “Women and Girls in Science – Towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals” at the University of the West Indies Learning Resource Centre, St Augustine.
Garcia said for a long time, up to the 19th century, women were largely excluded from formal tertiary education, particularly in scientific fields, and struggled for publication of their work in peer-review journals.
“Even today, women are effectively excluded in many cultures from scientific pursuits. There are still obstacles, even in more enlightened societies, but these are rapidly disappearing.”
He said the education sector, industry and government need to be aware of the importance of challenging the traditional approaches to career counselling and recruitment that tend to discourage girls from science.
Garcia said in the trades women are also taking their rightful place and, whereas the gender imbalance is still rather stark, the gap is rapidly closing as one can see female electricians, carpenters, masons, welders, taxi, bus and ambulance drivers, and even truckers.
He said on hearing the topic of the symposium, one might ask why focus on women and girls when it appears that they are already excelling in all fields of study including Science.
“It is not just about girls excelling in secondary schools and performing very well locally and in the region, but rather that they prove their excellence and serve as examples for sustainable contributions in the global environment,” Garcia said. According to United Nations resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative Richard Blewitt, Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Over 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in Science. Unfortunately, women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully. According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in Science-related fields is 18 per cent, eight per cent, and two per cent respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37 per cent, 18 per cent and six per cent,” he said.
In attendance was Campus principal Prof Brian Copeland, Campus Dean Prof Terrence Seemungal, and Dr Monica Davis.
Her Royal Highness Dr Nisreen El-Hashemite, granddaughter of the first King of Iraq, King Faisal (I) El-Sharif Hussein was to attend the symposium, but she had to attend to a family emergency and was unable to be there.