Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science
11 February 2020
“Full equality for women would be the surest hallmark of civilization and would double the intellectual powers of the human race”. Two centuries ago, Henri Beyle, otherwise known as Stendhal, already foresaw the cardinal importance of gender equality – not only for justice and dignity, but also for science and human knowledge.
Admittedly, significant progress has been achieved since the nineteenth century. However, we must acknowledge that substantial gender inequality still exists, both throughout the world in general and in the domain of science in particular.
Studies conducted by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) have made it possible to quantify this lack of equality. Even though girls do as well as boys in mathematics, women account for only 30% of scientific researchers, for example. The UNESCO publication I’d Blush If I Couldalso reveals that today, girls and women have four times fewer chances than men do when it comes to acquiring basic digital skills – and yet these skills will be absolutely essential in the future.
These persistent inequalities should be cause for major concern. Indeed, if we are to be able to address the enormous challenges of the twenty-first century – from climate change to technological disruption – we will need to rely on science and the mobilization of all our resources. It is for this reason that the world must not be deprived of the potential, the intelligence, or the creativity of the thousands of women who are victims of deep-seated inequality and prejudice. For all these reasons, UNESCO works daily to promote gender equality, which was established as one of the Organization’s cross-cutting priorities.
This priority is particularly evident in the field of science. UNESCO seeks to support the careers of women scientists and researchers through initiatives such as the L’ORAL-UNESCO Prize “For Women in Science”, which rewards deserving women researchers.
To combat prejudice at the source, UNESCO also supports national education systems by deconstructing the gender stereotypes which are sometimes found in teaching materials. UNESCO also supports education systems by strengthening States’ ability to deliver science and technology education with an egalitarian outlook. The UNESCO recommendation on open science, on which the Organization is working, will help to make access to scientific studies more open and inclusive.
On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020, UNESCO is calling on the international community, States and individuals to work together so that equality in the sciences and other fields can finally become a reality. Humanity has everything to gain – and so does science.