In science, women still under-represented

Under-represented among researchers worldwide, women are also still a large minority in scientific professions, at the risk of “missing out on the jobs of tomorrow”, according to a Unesco study. They represent only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of computer science graduates, 22% of artificial intelligence professionals …, according to the extract of a science report, scheduled for April, but whose Unesco publishes the chapter devoted to gender on the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11. Women remain in the minority in particular in digital information technologies, computing, physics, mathematics and engineering, “that is to say so many central disciplines of the fourth industrial revolution and carriers of the professions of tomorrow”, underline the authors. . However, women often exercise precisely jobs threatened by this revolution. According to a study conducted in 2011-2017 in England, they occupied 70% of the jobs at high risk of automation and only 43% of the least threatened jobs, recalls the report. And their under-representation in scientific professions “is all the more problematic given that there is a shortage of skills in many of these fields, especially in the AI ​​sector”, they add. “Even today, in the 21st century, women and girls are kept away from fields related to science, because of their gender,” said the director general of the UN agency in responsible for education, science and culture, Audrey Azoulay, quoted in a press release. “Women must know that they can excel in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and that they have the right to participate in scientific progress,” argues Ms. Azoulay. However, the world averages hide some nice disparities. Algeria can thus be proud of a proportion of 48.5% of engineers and 48.9% of women in information and communication technologies (ICT), Benin of 54.5%. engineers and 55.1% of women in ICT, while Switzerland tops out at 16% and 9.9% respectively, the United States at 20.4% and 23.6%, the Netherlands at 23.6% , 1% and 14.5% … In fact, the proportion of women among engineering graduates is lower than the world average in many member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (Australia: 23.2 %, Canada: 19.7%, Chile: 17.7%, Republic of Korea: 20.1%, France: 26.1%, Japan: 14.0%). The strongest representations of women among engineering graduates are found in particular in the Arab States, such as Algeria but also Morocco (42.2%), Oman (43.2%), Syria (43.9% ) and Tunisia (44.2%), as well as in Latin America – 41.7% in Cuba, 47.5% in Peru and 45.9% in Uruguay. “Many of the countries where women are as numerous as men graduate in ICT and other STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) have a predominantly Muslim population,” notes the report, which notably quotes the Mohammed ben Rachid space center, in the United Arab Emirates, where “four out of ten employees are women” including, in particular, the principal researcher, Sarah al-Amiri, 33 years old, deputy head of the project which allowed the launch of the probe Hope to Martian orbit on July 14, 2020, from a launch site in Japan. The report evokes the glass ceilings, “gender prejudices” and obstacles to the pathways of women in these professions, in research (shorter careers, less well paid, lower research grants) and even in the founding of companies, where startups created by women only collect 2.3% of risk capital, according to a 2020 global survey of 700 companies by Trustradius.