“If we educate a woman, we educate a nation.”
For ages, women have fought for their rights; in the past few years, the fight has intensified against systems that deprive women of the right to make certain choices, that pay them lower salaries than men, and that, often, kill them without protection from the law. The stakes have never been higher in discussions of topics like female empowerment, preventing and eliminating femicide, and gender equality.
According to demographic statistics, as of 2019, women constitute around 49% of the world’s population – barely different from the approximately 51% represented by men.
In the educational sector, women represent the majority of students in higher education in 114 countries, while men out-enrolled women in 57. According to The Institute of International Education (IIE), the number of women enrolled in higher education globally has grown almost twice as fast as enrollment rates for men in the past four decades. This is due, principally, to increases in equality, information access, income, and national and international campaigns touting gender equality at all levels of education.
With respect to student mobility, there is also a significant, growing number of women studying abroad. However, countries that send as well as receive international students must still strive to reduce gender disparity in international education, particularly in certain areas of knowledge, due to two factors: the predominance of international students from countries dominated by men, in which women are traditionally not encouraged to study abroad; and the increase of international students in search of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), which have historically been dominated by men, according to Rajika Bhandari, Senior Advisor of Research and Strategy at IIE.
At the doctoral level, reduction of gender disparity still has a long way to go, as fewer than 30% of researchers worldwide are women, according to statistics published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). As a result, the Women in Science Day campaigns, as well as calls for research funding that prioritize proposals written by women in scientific areas, continue to grow.
In sum, it is crucial to identify the qualitative factors that impede women from pursuing careers in STEM areas; only then will women be able to say that they have achieved true empowerment.