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UN Women report on biased gender norms

UN report shows biased gender norms keeps women from tech studies

Globally, only 3% of information and technology students are women. Women are also a minority of students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at only 35% and this despite that globally, young women outnumber young men in tertiary education. Biased gender norms and stereotypes derail girls’ choices of what to study in school, and ultimately, their careers and employment opportunities as adults”, UN Women’s report Gender Snapshot 2022 says.

“Overall, across countries, girls are systematically steered away from science and math careers. Teachers and parents, intentionally or otherwise, perpetuate biases around areas of education and work best “suited” for women and men.”

The report stresses the relative lack of women role models in STEM noting that globally, women make up just 19.9% of science and engineering professionals. “Such low representation is compounded by a work environment that is typically male-centric, inflexible and exclusionary, making the field less attractive to women and other underrepresented groups. It is a vicious cycle.”

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In Asia and the Pacific, one study revealed that 44% of women in STEM occupations who had caring responsibilities did not have flexible work arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gaps in STEM education and careers are larger for women and girls doubly disadvantaged by the intersection of gender with other vulnerabilities.

In the United States of America, Black and Hispanic women in STEM jobs earn about USD 20,000 a year less than the average for STEM jobs and about USD 33,000 less than their white male counterparts, the report says.


The report notes that technology plays an ever-increasing role in the ways we learn, work and communicate, and cellphones have gone from a luxury to an essential means of connecting with the world. But for many of the world’s women, such technology—as well as the access and independence it confers—remain out of reach: based on data for 2017-2021, women are less likely than men to own a phone in 50 of 82 countries.

“Gender equality is not going to happen on its own. We need enforceable policies and legislation at all levels of government to promote the empowerment of women and girls. Particularly in the wake of COVID-19, whose socioeconomic impacts overwhelmingly hit women harder than men, gender-sensitive policies are essential for narrowing persistent gender gaps.”


“Gender-based discrimination has long kept women and girls subordinate to men in the workplace, in politics and at home.”

The report says that though there has been notable progress concerning gender based discrimination, the pace of legal reform is far too slow. At current rates of change, the report estimates we are 21 years from universal laws banning violence against women and 286 years from gender equality in legal frameworks.

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“Violence against women and girls, already a pervasive problem before 2020, surged in the wake of COVID-19. Many women report feeling more unsafe since the start of the pandemic: nearly 7 in 10 women (68%) say that verbal or physical abuse by a partner has become more common, and 1 in 4 women describes more frequent household conflicts.”


“Over the past year, nearly 1 in 10 women aged 15 plus (9.9%) have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner; for women between the ages of 15 and 49, that figure jumps to 12.5%. On global average, a woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes.”

“In total, it’s estimated that 736 million women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. And given limitations in data collection, the scope of the problem is likely even larger.”

The report says child marriage remains a pervasive practice which the covid pandemic threatens to exacerbate. As of 2021, nearly 1 in 5 women (19.5%) aged 20-24 was married before turning 18—down from more than 1 in 4 (25.8%) in 2001 but still alarmingly high. “To end child marriage by 2030, the rate of change must increase by 17 times.”


During pandemic, lockdowns drove a massive increase in the daily load of household chores and care work. School and preschool closures created an additional 672 billion hours of unpaid childcare in 2020—512 billion of which is estimated to have been shouldered by women.

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“Lightening the unpaid burden on women and girls will require two kinds of change. Traditional gender roles must give way to a redistribution of household labour, with men and boys taking responsibility for an equal share. At the same time, it’s on governments to provide better public services and social protections—such as expanded care systems and requirements for paid parental leave—that help to reduce the load on individuals.”


“Women’s representation across political and economic leadership remains far from equal. At the national level, women hold just 26.4% of parliamentary seats globally—and under 10% of seats in 23 countries. In the economic sector, as of 2020, they hold 28.3% of managerial positions, up only 0.3% from 2019.”

“Without an increase in the rate of progress, gender parity in national parliamentary bodies won’t be reached until 2062. In the workplace things are even worse, with gender parity in management remaining 140 years away.”


“Restricting women’s bodily autonomy is a pervasive form of patriarchal control, both at the government level and within the family. Women’s empowerment depends on the protection of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to health care and education and the right to make their own informed decisions about their bodies.”

“As of 2021, just over half (57 per cent) of the world’s women were able to make their own informed decisions about sex and reproduction. This means the freedom to make choices about health care and the use of contraceptives as well as to say no to sex with a husband or partner.  The backslide on women’s rights currently underway threatens to reduce this number further.”

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