On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UNESCO published, on 11 February, the chapter on gender in science in its next report, “To be smart, the digital revolution must be inclusive”. According to the document, women still represent only 28% of engineering graduates, and 40% of computer graduates.And it is the Maghreb countries that are leading the field of women engineers in the world.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the proportion of women among engineering graduates is below the global average in many Member States of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is particularly the case in Australia (23.2%), Canada (19.7%), Chile (17.7%), the Republic of Korea (20.1%), the United States (20.4%), France (26.1%), Japan (14.0%) and Switzerland (16.1%).
It is, however, impossible to deduce specific regional trends. The strongest representation of women among engineering graduates is found in the Arab States, such as Algeria (48.5%), Morocco (42.2%), Oman (43.2%), Syria (43.9%) and Tunisia (44.2%), but also in Latin America – 41.7% in Cuba, 47.5% in Peru and 45.9% in Uruguay. There are also significant disparities between countries in the same region.
This chapter of UNESCO’s full report, scheduled to be published in April 2021, also highlights the fact that women do not fully benefit from the employment opportunities open to highly qualified experts in cutting-edge fields, such as artificial intelligence, where women make up only one-fifth of professionals (22%), according to a 2018 study published in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Inequality Report.
Similarly, founders of emerging companies are still struggling to obtain financing. In addition, in large technology companies, women remain under-represented in executive and technical positions. They are also more likely than men to leave the technological field, often, they say, because of the limited career opportunities available to them. However, according to the report, attitudes are changing in companies, especially since studies have shown that a diverse workforce can boost investor confidence and increase profit margins.
In order to prevent Industry 4.0 from replicating traditional gender biases, it is imperative, according to UNESCO, that women play a role in the digital economy.Faced with the growing weight of artificial intelligence in our societal priorities, the under-representation of women in research-development risks neglecting their needs and perspectives when designing products that have a direct influence on our daily lives, such as smartphone applications.