International Women's Day 2019:
Bridging the Gap in TVET
On March 8th, UNESCO-UNEVOC joined the world in celebrating International Women’s Day. This year’s theme “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” focused on innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women. Innovative approaches are needed to remove structural barriers and ensure that no woman or girl is left behind. On International Women’s Day, UNESCO-UNEVOC emphasized its commitment to empowering women through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and supporting change agents in their efforts to promote gender equality in all facets of TVET.
Promoting Gender Equality - Women in the Digital Space
As global advances are characterized by ever-faster innovation cycles, disruptive technologies, and digitization, careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields are increasingly referred to as the ‘jobs of the future’ - driving innovation, inclusive growth, and sustainable development. Yet women represent only 35% of STEM students in higher education (UNESCO) and just 30% of the world's researchers (UIS). Gender inequalities in access to STEM-education and training affects the participation of women in both ‘traditional’ and ‘emerging’ occupational areas and hinders their progress in acquiring the necessary skills for the future world of work.
Whilst improving access to STEM education for girls and women is a critical element in bridging the gap, exposure to STEM activities and role models in corresponding sectors are also key motivational factors. According to a recent Microsoft study on Closing the STEM Gap, girls do not associate careers in STEM with having a positive impact on the world. However, this mindset often changes when exposed to real-world applications of STEM skills. In her official message for International Women’s Day 2019, Ms. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, has announced that UNESCO will be highlighting and celebrating the work of pioneering women in STEM to encourage “a new generation of young women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, where they remain under-represented.”
According to a 2016 report by the Broadband Commission and UNESCO, the gender digital divide is increasing: in 2016, there were over 250 million fewer women online than men. As the digital gap grows, the ever-expanding field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fuelling the demand for a range of new skills. This sector is emerging as a key focus area in the gender parity debate given the predominance of STEM skills in the emerging world of work as the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses. The latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report notes the significant gender gap among AI professionals - only 22% of AI professionals globally are female. At this early phase, it is important to address these gender inequalities and promote inclusion in the AI sector, rather than retroactively attempt to rectify a problem that has become deeply embedded in its ecosystem.
Promoting gender equality in STEM-related TVET
While technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has great potential to promote the productive participation of women in the dynamic labour market, this potential remains largely untapped in certain sectors. In the majority of developing countries, women are much less likely than men to enrol in TVET, with even lower enrolment numbers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related fields.
To better understand the opportunities and challenges of increasing female participation in STEM-related TVET, UNESCO-UNEVOC launched a series of strategic activities in 2019. On March 21st–22nd, UNEVOC hosted an expert workshop on “Gender equality in STEM-related fields in TVET” and will be conducting a subsequent analytical study to improve the understanding of the relationship between STEM and TVET and present global examples of the existing measures that have been implemented to promote gender equality in the respective fields. The workshop aimed to address the key areas that are contributing to inequality in STEM-related TVET, namely inadequate policy frameworks, “traditionalist” societal attitudes, the nature of STEM in the classroom and workplace, and how this affects the mindset of girls and women to pursue education and training in STEM subjects.
On March 28th-29th, 2019, UNESCO-UNEVOC also launched its Skills for Innovation Hubs project to unleash the potential for TVET institutions to act as agents of innovation. The promotion of gender equality will be used as one of the criterion to tag and select the innovative practices that are identified from the 10 pilot institutions during project implementation. More information about this new project, including details of the launch meeting are available here
UNESCO’s work on Gender Equality
UNESCO believes that all forms of discrimination based on gender are violations of human rights, as well as a significant barrier to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. By identifying Gender Equality as a global priority for the Organization, UNESCO has committed to making a positive and lasting contribution to women’s empowerment and gender equality around the world.
Celebrating International Women’s Day at UN Bonn
1. Panel Discussion
On International Women’s Day 2019, UNESCO-UNEVOC joined other UN Bonn agencies in co-organizing a panel discussion that convened UN, government, civil society and private sector representatives. The panel discussion:
- Shed light on the discriminations and barriers women and girls face in accessing social protection systems and public services
- Examined the initiatives and success stories on how innovation has removed such barriers and accelerated progress for gender equality.
A poster exhibition was held in dedicated spaces around the UN Bonn campus to promote the activities of UN agencies in bridging the gender gap. A social media booth was also set up on campus for staff members to share their positive messages for International Women’s Day with an online audience.
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