As technology becomes integrated throughout all corners of the economy, the importance of skilled labor in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has increased over time. However, there is still a significant gender gap in these fields that needs to be addressed within APEC’s 21 member economies.
“We know from the data that there is an under-representation of women in STEM fields – not only as students and researchers, but also as managers, leaders and entrepreneurs – which significantly hinders sustainable economic growth and prosperity throughout the region,” said Ann Katsiak, Chief of Party for US-APEC Technical Assistance to Advance Regional Integration.
APEC’s Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy aims to narrow this gender gap and facilitate women in STEM by implementing a framework it designed that addresses barriers for women to excel in this field.
“The heart of economic growth and prosperity depends so much on science, innovation and technology. Even more, that growth is contingent upon our ability to reduce barriers and to nurture women’s economic participation,” explained Lisa Brodey, Acting Chair of APEC’s Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation.
The multifaceted APEC Women in STEM framework encompasses four key areas for improving the representation of women in STEM fields: an enabling environment, education, employment and entrepreneurship. Each area spotlights other issues that require more attention such as culture, diverse experience and history, access to capital and recruitment, as well as laws and regulation.
The framework also contains an analysis of current conditions and nuances of women’s participation in STEM, describes barriers and recommends what economies can do to better facilitate and expand women in STEM across all areas of engagement.
Government officials, academics and practitioners are taking steps toward implementing these recommendations. This includes encouraging companies to publicly commit to gender-inclusive recruitment policy and advocate for the development of public policy agendas that call for the public and private sectors to actively encourage women’s participation in STEM fields. It also inspires girls from an early age to envision themselves in STEM careers and welcomes the establishment of non-profit organizations that provide skills training to girls and women.
“With the right policies that support inclusivity, economies can help women to strive in STEM fields. In Malaysia, we have increased the number of women researchers by putting in place policies that allow women to excel in STEM education and careers,” noted Dr Halimaton Hamdan, a renowned chemistry researcher and Professor at Malaysia’s Academy of Sciences.
“More than putting policies in place, if we want to push women to go ahead and excel in STEM fields, we have to build motivation, tell more success stories, give more role models to look up to and create a strong community that can support other women,” concluded Supapan Seraphin, Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Arizona in the United States.