Still work to do in gender equality

October 20, 2018 - 09:00

Gender equality worldwide has generally improved as women find more opportunities to participate in society. However, there is still work to do to reach true equality.

Five female staff from the Việt Nam Academy of Science and Technology won the collective Kovalevskaya Award for their project on nano-technology applied in agricultural production and health care. — VNA/VNS Photo Phương Hoa
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Gender equality worldwide has generally improved as women find more opportunities to participate in society.

Women are asserting their role in science and technology development, and the percentage of women involved in engineering has increased over recent years.

However, there is still work to do to reach true equality.

Most countries have not achieved gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, heard participants in a workshop on gender equality in science and technology in the Fourth Industrial Revolution yesterday.

The workshop was part of the eighth meeting of the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists-Asia and Pacific Nations Network (INWES-APNN). It was held in Hà Nội with the theme “Woman Scientists for Sustainable Development in the Digital Age.”

Women account for less than 30 per cent of the world’s total science researchers. This number does not match women’s potential in science and technology.

In Asia, only 15 per cent of science researchers are female. India has the lowest ratio, only 10 per cent, while countries like the Philippines and Myanmar have high percentages with 55 and 85 per cent respectively.

According to Nguyễn Thị Bích Loan, Vice Rector of Commerce University, Vietnamese women have strengthened their position in society. The percentage of women acting as National Assembly deputies is 26.72 per cent, higher than the global average of 22.3 per cent.

The proportion of women obtaining the titles of associate professor and professor increased considerably from 7.0 per cent and 4.3 per cent respectively in 2000 to 29.53 per cent and 9.23 per cent in 2016.

While they have some advantages in Việt Nam, female scientists also face obstacles.

“Household chores, including childcare and elder care, remain the primary responsibilities of women, especially mothers,” Loan said.

Little attention is paid to social services that alleviate the burden of care and housework for working women.

Due to family and care-giving responsibilities, women scientists have limitations on social networking, opportunities for training and workshops. Loan said all of these factors add up to make women less likely to be the head of scientific projects, especially for ministerial or state-level research projects.

Seema Singh from Delhi Technological University in India agreed with this view.

Ten per cent of the seats in the Bangladesh parliament are reserved for women and most educational institutions offer equal opportunities for men and women. But social realities preclude girls from participating in professions which are typically male dominated, she said citing her research on South Asian scientists, adding that no seats are reserved for women in engineering in Bangladesh.

Loan said it would be possible to create favourable conditions that remove barriers so women can reach their full potential. This would involve mobilising resources to support young intellectuals and strengthening co-operation among the community of female scientists, she said.

Workshop attendees agreed that there should be more opportunities to share experiences with gender equality, especially in science and technology.

They also emphasised the need to understand the challenges to increasing gender equity in the field.

They recommended sending policy proposals to national and world leaders with the goal of receiving political commitments to equality.

Other workshops held yesterday addressed disaster risk management, climate change adaptation and food safety.

Participants agreed climate change affected every aspect of life including the environment, security, food safety, the economy and culture.

They reiterated the responsibilities of individuals and businesses in daily life. Consumers need to change their behaviours on solid waste issues, and trans-national enterprises need to take responsibility for waste treatment and the implementation of biodegradable plastics for packaging.

Addressing the workshop, director of the Centre for Environment and Community Research (CECR) Nguyễn Ngọc Lý said women could participate as stakeholders to influence decision making and preserve their future livelihoods.

She cited the CECR’s research on women’s participation in two development projects in Việt Nam as an example.

The findings showed that the engagement of women in consultations at the Trung Sơn hydropower project generated positive and important changes. One result was a change of the resettlement sites in two of the four communes. The new sites are located in a smaller area but with more fertile land and cleaner water sources.

The women who participated had views on environmental issues such as drinking water quality, air pollution and other health issues, while the men were more concerned with land and asset compensation, Lý said.

Participants at the meeting voiced their opinion that all people need nutritious and safe food, so they urged active co-operation with APNN members to address food safety. They called for more involvement in food safety, nutrition and public health issues, especially through law amendment and nutrition training.

They closed the meeting by endorsing the Hà Nội Declaration, which showed the commitment of APNN members to strengthening the co-operative relationship among female scientists. — VNS