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Celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

11 February 2022

We are proud to have such amazing women in our Hub team

“Gender inequality is one of the oldest and most pervasive forms of inequality in the world.” – Oxfam

Every year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science recognises the role of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) sectors, not only as beneficiaries, but also as agents of change. The theme for 2022 is "Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Water Unites Us", celebrating women and girls leading innovation and progress in Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), and calling for action to remove barriers holding them back.

According to UN Water, “the world is not on track to achieve SDG6” by 2030. Nearly 80% of the world’s population live in areas where water security is thwarted by pressures such as climate change, pollution, extreme weather, and gender inequalities. Unless progress is quadrupled, billions of people around the world will be without access to safely managed household drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services by the end of the decade.

Science and gender equality both lie at the heart of and are vital to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG6 target 6.2 emphasises the need to pay particular attention to the hygiene and sanitation needs of women and girls. Others, like target 6.1, are intrinsically linked to gender inequality – it is usually women who are responsible for water collection for their household. Yet a significant gender gap persists in STEM disciplines around the world. Today, only one in three science and engineering researchers globally are women, with structural and societal barriers preventing women and girls from entering the industry.

Climate change impacts every person on our planet, but there is increasing awareness that it affects women more. Women are often more burdened due to the multiple ‘roles’ they have, for instance as primary caregivers, or collecting food for their families. Existing inequalities are worsened by extreme weather incidents – when natural disasters resulting from climate change occur, women are more vulnerable. For example, Lake Chad in central Africa has shrunk by 90% in 60 years due to rising temperatures and chronic drought, meaning women must walk much further to collect water.

“This inequality is depriving our world of enormous untapped talent and innovation… preventing young women scientists from pursuing careers that help address climate and environmental crises” – António Guterres, UN Secretary General

Steps are being taken in the right direction: the UN has called for gender sensitive responses to the impacts of climate change, the Paris Agreement includes specific provisions for women, and female representation in STEM fields, including climate change research, policy, and practice, is increasing. But it’s not enough. We cannot ensure an equitable response to the climate crisis and other global challenges if we don’t address systemic disparity within STEM. 

Here at the Water Security Hub, we strive to empower women and amplify their voices, not just from within our own team, but also those working with stakeholders, partners, and communities around the world, contributing to solutions for water security and global challenges. We are proud to have such a strong, interdisciplinary team, and celebrate every day all the incredible women we’re lucky to have.

“This glaring disparity does not just hamstring our ability to find solutions to our common challenges, it keeps us from building the societies we need.” – UN Women Executive Director

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