The (in)visible representation of women in Science, Information and Technology #S01A01
The future is about digital powering the economies and the world. At the same time what has been named as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) is disrupting governance systems, industries and the labour market, as cyberphysical systems thrive and become further sophisticated. Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, nanotechnology, three-dimensional (3D) printing, genomics, biotechnology and cognitive sciences are becoming increasingly complicated, building on and amplifying one another.
The aforementioned have far-reaching implications generally for the role of women in society, and particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Yet we see that despite that women account for more than half of the European population:
⚫only around 17% of the ICT specialists are women;
⚫women are under-represented in the Digital Economy;
⚫only 1 in 3 Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) graduates is a woman;
⚫only 17% – 1 in 6 – ICT specialists in the EU is a woman .
According to a study prepared for the European Commission named ‘ Women in the Digital Age’ for every 1,000 female tertiary graduates in the EU, only 24 are graduates in Information Communication Technology -related fields (abbreviated as ICT, covers all technical means used to handle information and aid communication. This includes both computer and network hardware, as well as their software). Before one demonstrates the following mistaken concluding argument ‘It’s their choice thus it is logical to have more men than women in the field of ICT’ lets face once again the elephant in the room:
Women are less encouraged to pursue a career in ICT as they seem to suffer from strong gender bias and stereotypes regarding their entrance into the labour market as ICT professionals. Moreover, women are still the main provider of care and domestic labour and as a result are more likely to adopt part-time contracts or leave their jobs at a young age.Moreover as you will see from the below below:
The above is confirmed once again. An international survey of TrustRadius with 700 respondent companies participating in the survey took place in 2021, following which the survey ‘Women in Tech Report of 2020’ was drafted. According to the said report, women-founded companies received only 2.3% of total venture capital investment and women nearly twice as many women found this very concerning, compared to men (31%) which makes us realise that this is if not the most, one of the most main reasons that this enormous venture capital investment difference exists in the first place.
It is worth mentioning that in a Motion for a European Parliament Resolution on promoting gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers,the European Parliament in a way confirmed the above-mentioned worldwide findings, by reiterating in its general remarks that:
gender stereotyping, cultural discouragement and a lack of awareness and of promotion of female role models hinders and negatively affects girls’ and women’s opportunities in STEM studies, in related careers and digital entrepreneurship, and can lead to discrimination and fewer opportunities for women in the labour market;
Member States combat gendered labour market segmentation in STEM careers by investing in formal, informal and non-formal education, lifelong learning and vocational training for women to ensure their access to high-quality employment and opportunities to reskill and upskill for future labour market demand and prevent a vicious circle of gender segregation of labour;
calls on the Commission and the Member States to devise policy measures that fully incorporate the gender dimension through awareness-raising campaigns, training, school curricula and, in particular, careers guidance, in order to promote entrepreneurship, STEM subjects and digital education for girls from an early age with a view to combating existing educational stereotypes and ensuring that more women enter developing and well‑paid sectors;
emphasises the need to involve the media, including social media, to encourage the use of inclusive language and to avoid stereotypes that lead to the formation of opinions against girls’ participation and interest in STEM education;
calls for STEM facilities to be improved and equal access to them to be guaranteed; calls for specific scholarships for girls and women who wish to pursue a career in the STEM sector;
welcomes the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027 and its action to ‘Encourage women’s participation in STEM’, and hopes that it will help to develop more attractive and creative ways to encourage girls to pursue STEM studies, as well as boost women’s self-confidence in their digital skills;
stresses that girls only go on to account for 36 % of STEM graduates despite outperforming boys in digital literacy;
highlights that girls who assimilate gender stereotypes have lower levels of self-efficacy and less confidence in their ability than boys and that self-efficacy has a considerable impact on both STEM education outcomes and aspirations for STEM careers;
stresses that girls appear to lose interest in STEM subjects with age, which suggests that interventions are needed as early as pre-school and primary school in order to sustain girls’ interest in these fields and fight harmful stereotypes on gender roles for both girls and boys;
The European Parliament adopted by 546 votes to 35, with 100 abstentions, a report on promoting gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers (you may read the resolution here)*
Europe and Cyprus
In 2017, of almost 18 million scientists and engineers in the EU, 59% were men and 41% women.
Men were particularly overrepresented in high and medium-high technology manufacturing (83% of scientists and engineers in such manufacturing were male), while the gender ratio in the services sector was more balanced (55% male and 45% female).* High-technology.
According to a Eurostat study, in 2018 , around 27,600 people are employed in science and technology in Cyprus and of them, around 12,600 are women and 14,900 are men.
We were unable to find more recent data and particularly data which specify in which areas of science and technology are women employed in, or whether women contribute in the science of big data or socia media data, where representation of women’s needs is extremely important.
National Action Plan on Gender Equality – Cyprus 2019-2023
According to the Interim Target no. 7.1. of the National Action Plan on Gender Equality 2019 – 2023 the Republic of Cyprus has undertaken to increase the number of women in in IT studies. Within this initiative, the Republic of Cyprus would undertake in 2020 the statistical monitoring of the ratio of women and men in IT departments inside and outside Cyprus. The project promoter of this monitoring would be the Statistical Service and the Universities. Following our communication with the Statistical Service of Service we managed to find that in 2020 the percentage of ICT women specialists employed in Cyprus was 18.% as oppose to the percentage of ICT men specialists at 81.9%.
The relevant Cyprus legislation
Ensuring equal opportunities in education has been a common international concern when in 1995 during the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 governments were called upon to eliminate disparities between women and men in both access to education and educational outcomes. Significant advances in women’s equal access to education have paralleled a growing concern about the under-representation of women in scientific careers and especially in decision-making positions. Evidence from all over the world shows that progress in this field is at best slow and cannot be taken for granted. Gender equality is one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals and this clearly calls for action in the field of science, technology and gender.
What do we expect?
Women account for more than half of the European population. When they are involved in the field of science and technology they can create user-friendly technology that is responsive to their needs and provide hands on approach and results to the benefit of everyone. Women do tend to add more importance to issues like healthcare, environment, sustainability and social welfare.  Each one of us have a part to play in closing the gender divide, abolishing stereotypes and encouraging girls and women to use science in information and communication technology and to follow their academic and professional path in these sectors.
*Resolutions may not be legally binding but contain a political position on a specific topic related to the EU’s areas of activity. These types of documents only set up political commitments or positions.
 Manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations (21);
Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products (26);
Manufacture of air and spacecraft and related machinery (30.3)
Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products (20);
Manufacture of weapons and ammunition (25.4);
Manufacture of electrical equipment (27);
Manufacture of machineryand equipment n.e.c. (28);
Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers (29);
Manufacture of other transport equipment (30) excluding Building of ships and boats (30.1) and excluding Manufacture of air and spacecraft and related machinery (30.3);
Manufacture of medical and dental instruments and supplies (32.5)
 Van Engeland 2019
Cover photo- iStock metamorworks