Lean into STEM to Get Girls Involved

A female scientist at a sewage treatment plant in India.
A female scientist at a sewage treatment plant in India.

By Sharmishta Sivaramakrishnan

Encouraging more females to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will mitigate the gender bias in these fields.

Did you know that the number of female teachers teaching in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) space decreases as educational stages advance?

Encouraging more females to study and work in STEM-related careers will mitigate the gender bias inherent in STEM, especially in medical research, where neglecting gender as a determinant has led to negative health outcomes for women. On a larger scale, increasing women in STEM will allow for the accomplishment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 5. By addressing the dearth of females working in STEM, we can ignite progress on some of SDG 5’s noteworthy targets from reduced discrimination, ensuring full participation and equal leadership opportunities for women, and enhancing the use of ICT to empower women. 

Out of 18 countries in Asia, UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics recently reported that only Kazakhstan, Thailand and the Philippines boast an equal or higher ratio of female compared to male researchers in STEM. Moreover, only 30% of all researchers in this space are female. These statistics reveal a striking reality as well as the need to resolve the existing gender disparity in STEM-related careers by investing in females.

Here is where Microsoft’s DigiGirlz program can play a key role. DigiGirlz invests in STEM education for young women and girls to prepare them for challenges in the global economy, offering participants in the program the opportunity to learn integral computer and technology skills as well as interact with female leaders in the tech industry. During ADB’s 4th Annual Asian Youth Forum, a DigiGirlz workshop will focus on energizing the minds of girls toward careers in STEM and finding ways to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics research. 

ADB seeks to enable young people, especially girls, to achieve their ambitions, thereby living out the targets of SDG 5. In 2003, ADB launched the $12 million multi-donor Gender and Development Cooperation Fund (GDCF), dedicated to piloting innovations, providing grants for gender-inclusive design of ADB loan projects, building the gender capacity of government clients, and forging partnerships with gender-sensitive development agencies and organizations. Through its Youth For Asia program, ADB emphasizes civil society participation in the region, notably with youth-focused and youth-led organizations, also to help achieve SDG 5. ADB has also shown how it believes in investing in women and girls to transform societal gender perceptions in Asia and the Pacific with initiatives like the Additional Skills Acquisition Program in Kerala, India.

Recognizing the socioeconomic benefits of investing in girls, ADB rolled out its 2013-2020 Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Operational Plan, which mainstreams ADB’s vision for gender equality and offers a framework for delivering on the women’s empowerment agenda by 2020. Furthermore, ADB’s Strategy 2020 highlights gender equality as a “key driver of change” and is an example other organizations should follow in their efforts to meet the SDGs.

The collaboration between ADB and DigiGirlz hopes to convene of effective female thought leadership and inspiring dedication for gender empowerment, and pool the resources of ADB and Microsoft to make present and future generations of young women and girls passionate about STEM education.