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Boosting the number of women and girls entering careers involving science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, UN chief António Guterres said in a message to mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science..

Each year in February, the United Nations marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It’s a chance to reflect on how the situation has improved for women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM), and how much remains to be done. The day of February11th was established in 2015 is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technological communities and that their participation should be strengthened.

Recent studies show that, while more girls are attending school than before, they are under-represented in STEM subjects and they appear to lose interest as they reach adolescence. Women are mostly under-represented in STEM careers despite the high number of females graduating from university in the fields.  For example, in Kenya, slightly more than 35% of the 6,664 doctors and dentists registered with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and dentists board by 2018 are women. Figures from UNESCO indicate that the representation of women researchers is also low in other science fields in Kenya. The exclusion of women from STEM is not unique to Kenya but common around the world.

Women and girls’ voices and expertise in science, technology and innovation are vital to bring solutions to disruptive change in our rapidly evolving world. We urgently need to close the gender gap in STEM fields and promote gender equality in the respective careers.

In the recent months we have seen young women and girls around the world being vocal in calling for action to combat climate change. When 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg charged World Economic Forum attendees in Switzerland to ‘act as if our house is on fire’, she was voicing sentiments similar to many of her age.

When women have the educational and leadership opportunities to pursue careers in STEM, they have influenced the development of policies, programs, and inventions that have changed our world. We cannot afford to leave the talent and contributions of half the world’s population on the table. Advancing women’s participation in STEM to ensure a new generation of female scientists follows in the footsteps of these pioneers is a national security and moral imperative.

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