The inception of International Day of Women and Girls in Science took place in 2015 during the very first High-Level Women’s Health and Development Forum at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Since then, there has been a Forum held every year at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the issues and barriers facing women and girls in regards to STEM careers. This year, the Forum at the United Nations Headquarters focused on the impact of the media on women’s and girls’ involvement in the sciences.
The media plays a key role in the number of women who become scientists and how they are treated by their colleagues and employers. Showcasing women who work in STEM in the media normalizes their place in the scientific community. Featuring female scientists can be pivotal in changing perceptions and encouraging women to reach their full potential. Movies, such as Hidden Figures, do well at displaying the important roles women play in science, and the need to support their abilities. The media can show young girls and boys that women are as smart and capable as any man, and can empower women to become involved in a male-dominated community.
As of right now, only 1/5 of physics Ph.D.’s in the U.S. are awarded to females. Women professors who teach physics represent only 14 percent of all physics professors. What is more, women with the same qualifications as men in the field of science are less likely than men to be hired. There are also great disparities in the number of awards given out by the scientific community, as a man is much more likely to receive an award than a woman. Even though about half of the educated work force is female, only 29 percent of the people who work in STEM are women. Additionally, women face lower wages than men, and statistics only get worse worse for women of color. In 2013, 70 percent of individuals who worked in STEM were white.
Given these disheartening figures, it is more important than ever to ensure women and girls are supported in their scientific endeavors. Elizabeth Blackwell, Marie Curie, and so many others show what can be achieved and discovered by women in the scientific field. International Day of Women and Girls in Science should not only be a day we remember the amazing achievements of all female scientists, but also a day to remind ourselves of how incredibly important it is to make sure women are more equitably included in science careers.