Last updated: 11 Feb 2022

Despite positive trends in the past decades, women and girls remain under-represented in science, including on environmental matters. Fostering inclusion and gender equality in these fields is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. On the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022, we celebrate the inspiring women from the International Geneva community who are working on advancing environmental science.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past decades, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science. A significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. In Switzerland for instance, 37.5% of men who graduate tertiary education are in STEM fields, where as this percentage is only 11.4% for women.

In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2015. Recognizing the role of women and girls in science, not only as beneficiaries, but also as agents of change, the 2022 edition of the day will focus on the “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”. Thus, the day will shed light on the contribution of women and girls for accelerating progress towards the achievement of SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation).

Women in Environmental Science

Similarly to others areas of work under the STEM disciplines, women remain underrepresented in scientific institutions dealing with environmental issues. For instance, women make up just 33% of the authors working on the IPCC’s sixth assessment report. This represent with no doubt a significant improvement compared to previous years: women accounted for only 5% of IPCC authors in 1990. However, much can still be done to ensure equal representation and inclusion.

While women’s participation in technology development is rising fast, their participation in developing green technologies has seen little improvement. As such, the percentage of women inventors for environment-related technologies also remains low (13% in 2016). This stems from their low participation in STEM fields due to structural barriers linked with perceived gender roles, family responsibilities, and funding disparities.

Developing new low-carbon and resource-efficient technologies is a prerequisite for achieving global climate and biodiversity goals. This requires drawing on the largest possible pool of talent globally. Excluding women from technology development efforts means ignoring the innovative capacity of half of humanity. Increased rates of women’s participation in environmental innovation would help develop the local know-how which is required for a successful technology transfer across borders (e.g. from North to South) or domestically (e.g. from science and academia to industry and service sectors).

Gender and environmental statistics – Exploring available data and developing new evidence | OECD | 2020

Experts in Geneva

As a global hub of environmental governance, the Geneva ecosystem is bustling with expertise on environmental matters. Developing robust science to support environmental policy making is at the heart of many Geneva-based organizations, including UN institutions, other intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations. On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we celebrate the women experts who are part of this community, recognizing their contribution to building the knowledge base for science-informed decision-making and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Cover photo: Inspirational Women in Geneva Working for the Environment, celebratory event for International Women Day 2016. ©UNEP