11 Feb 2019

Today, 11 February, is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which is both a celebration of women and girls in science and a reminder that their participation needs to be strengthened.

Gender equality in the sciences is not just good for individual women, it makes science better and more relevant. This is supported by mounting evidence which shows that gender diversity encourages smarter, more creative teams, paving the way for enhanced knowledge outcomes. This is vital for addressing global challenges such as climate change, food security and water resource management.

In celebration of the powerful role of women in scientific inquiry but cognisant of the barriers that many still face in gaining full and equal access to certain scientific fields, we asked women from across our organization what has enabled them to thrive as a scientist at WorldFish.

  • We present their insightful and sometimes surprising answers in a special Exposure Story here.

  • To highlight our early career research talents who are already making a significant contribution to fisheries and aquaculture knowledge, we launched a new series on our emerging scientists. In the first two instalments, we feature Chikondi Manyungwa-Pasani, a small-scale fisheries researcher in Malawi, and Chin Yee Chan, a Research Fellow based in Malaysia who focuses on fish foresight modeling.

  • Acknowledging that gender inclusion extends beyond our own workforce, our gender strategy calls for research not only by but also for women. Recent examples include a study of gendered ownership of aquaculture resources in Bangladesh and a major new aquaculture training and entrepreneurship project in Zambia that explicitly targets women and female youth.

In the past decade or so, the global community has made a concerted effort to engage women and girls in science. However, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), women continue to be underrepresented, making up less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers.

Moreover, a 2018 study by researchers at the University of Melbourne showed that without further interventions, the gender gap in science will likely persist for generations. The study sought to find out how many women work in different fields of STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine), and when—if ever—women will be equally represented in the workforce.

Mapping the gender gap using data on 36 million authors of more than 10 million articles published over the past 15 years, the study showed that almost every field of STEMM is moving towards a 50:50 gender ratio.

This is clearly encouraging news. On the flip side, the data predicted that, based on current trends, several disciplines are a long way from reaching gender parity, including surgery (52 years), mathematics (60 years) and computer science (280 years).

Given women’s past and ongoing contribution to scientific progress, it is not hard to understand why closing the gender gap is the right thing to do for science and society. By commemorating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are supporting and championing women and girls around the world to ensure their rightful place at the research table.

Gareth Johnstone
Director General