Elsevier: Lack Of Women Scientists In South Korea, India

In the first gender benchmarking study of its kind, researchers have found that the number of women in scientific fields is alarmingly low in countries such as South Korea and India.

AsianScientist (Mar. 12, 2013) – In the first gender benchmarking study of its kind, researchers have found that the number of women in scientific fields is alarmingly low in the world’s leading economies, including the United States, and are actually on the decline in others.

The Elsevier Foundation funded study mapped the opportunities and obstacles faced by women in science in Brazil, South Africa, India, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, the US, the EU.

It was led by Dr. Sophia Huyer, Executive Director of Women in Global Science & Technology (WISAT), and Dr. Nancy Hafkin, Senior Associate of WISAT, and experts in international gender, science and technology issues from the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD).

Despite efforts by many of the countries in this study to give women greater access to science and technology education, research shows negative results in the areas of engineering, physics, and computer science.

In India – which had the lowest overall rank of all the countries in the study – less than 15 percent of women have access to their own bank account, and females hold less than a third of available administrative and managerial positions.

Female enrollments in the bio and health sciences in India are very high, at 80 percent, but the numbers drop drastically in engineering and physics enrollments to 35 percent.

In addition, the numbers of women actually working in these fields are declining across the board – only 12 percent of the science and engineering workforce in India was female in 2010. India does see a high representation of females in management in all sectors at 42 percent, but less than 5 percent representation of females on corporate boards.

At the same time there are definite signs of progress, India has achieved universal primary education enrollment for example.

South Korean ranks last of the countries in the study in female economic status, access to resources, supportive policy, and participation in the knowledge and STI sectors.

In South Korea, less than 15 percent of women are enrolled in degree programs for science and technology fields – a figure lower than the 30 percent in most countries. Only 11 percent of science and engineering enrollments (including bio and health sciences) are women, lower than the average of 21 percent in most countries.

The share of Korean women in professional fields remains substantially lower than men, and at less than 50 percent, is well below the average for member countries of the OECD. In the private sector, women make up less than one percent of corporate board directors, and the percentage of women-run businesses with more than one employee at 21 percent.

“These economies are operating under the existing paradigm that if we give girls and women greater access to education they will eventually gain parity with men in these fields,” states Sophia Huyer, the lead researcher and founding executive director of Women in Global Science & Technology.

“This has dictated our approach to the problem for over a decade and we are still only seeing incremental changes. The report indicates that access to education is not a solution in and of itself. It’s only one part of what should be a multi-dimensional policymaking approach. There is no simple solution,” said Huyer.

The data show that women’s parity in the science, technology and innovation fields is tied to multiple empowerment factors, with the most influential being participation in the labor force, larger roles in government and politics, access to economic, productive and technological resources, quality healthcare and financial resources.

“We found that the absence of any one of these elements creates a situation of vulnerability for economies that want to be competitively positioned in the knowledge economy,” Huyer says. “We are wasting resources educating women without following through, and we are missing out on the enormous potential that women represent.”

The project summary and key findings can be found at: Gender Equality and the Knowledge Society Scorecard.


Source: Elsevier; Photo: Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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