Why don’t more girls study science? And why are there so few women going on to have a career in science and technology-related fields? Women and girls continued to be excluded from participating fully in science. According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.
It’s a question that has even been debated at the UN General Assembly. They have designated 11th February as the inaugural International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Its aim is to foster gender equality and inspire more women to engage in science and technology.
Why has this raced to the top of the UN agenda? Because it’s a vital issue in the fight for gender equality. US News & World Report revealed that 14 of the top 20 best-paying jobs in America require a science qualification. For women to close the pay gap and achieve genuine equality, it’s important to have more females in our laboratories and technology businesses.
There’s certainly not a lack of role models from history. Marie Curie’s discoveries in radioactivity made her the only woman to win Nobel prizes in both physics and chemistry. Rosalind Franklin was instrumental in one of the greatest achievements of our age, the discovery of the DNA double helix. And in biology, Jane Goodall remains one of the world’s foremost authorities on primates.
So where will the next Marie Curie come from? Around the world, there are teachers who are leading the way in inspiring women and girls to love science. Some of those teachers are amongst those shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize.
Perhaps the next great female scientist will come from the outskirts of Karachi in Pakistan. There, Humaira Bachal runs a school for girls from impoverished backgrounds using innovative interactive teaching methods to explain mathematical concepts. She even organises site visits for her girls to local technological and agricultural businesses to give her students practical experience.
Meanwhile in the United States, Romanian immigrant, Liviu Paul Haiducu, is helping to inspire the next generation of American scientists. His Power of Physics (POP) initiative uses online video and live tours to present physics in a highly entertaining and engaging way. His work has been recognised with the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Maybe the next Rosalind Franklin will be Brazilian. There, Marcio de Andrede Batista is working with female students to undertake scientific research that could help them in their everyday lives. He recognised that many schools had little access to scientific facilities so he established a Junior Scientific Starter Program giving science lectures at his own expense in local schools. Such has been his success that one of his students recently won the most important scientific prize in Latin America, the prestigious Young Scientist Prize.
Just a few examples of how Global Teacher prize shortlisted teachers are helping to educate the next generation of female scientists and spreading the word to both sexes and every strata of society.