WIPR Influential Women in IP 2019
These range from the relatively minor, such as
air-conditioning set to a man’s metabolic rate, to the
life-threatening, such as crashing a car whose safety
tests don’t account for women’s measurements.
Gender diversity in the STEM fields is seriously
lacking, with UNESCO statistics reporting that
women account for only 28.8% of the world’s
Between 1901 and 2018, the Nobel Prizes and
the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 590
times—but only 52 of these laureates were women.
This is despite all indications that diversity
should be on the agenda. A homogenous workforce
leads to homogenous solutions, and if half of the
world’s population isn’t involved in the process,
they’re not likely to benefit.
UNESCO-L’Oréal International Fellowship
winner and senior research scientist at the Genome
Institute of Singapore Li Jingmei says: “While men
and women are fundamentally different, science is
genderless. Men and women work together for the
good of mankind. Science flourishes because of the
different approaches that men and women take to
In practice, women are likely to focus on
developing different inventions from those of
men, says Amina Ahmed El-Imam, a lecturer at the
University of Ilorin in Nigeria.
For example, if you can develop storage solutions,
you can “reduce the drudgery of kitchen life” in
Nigeria, she explains.
But this is all dependent on a STEM pipeline,
where leaks spring from the very beginning—at
school age—and continue to seep throughout a
Going to the grassroots
Children understand stereotypes from an
astonishingly young age.
A literature review published by UK gender
equality and women’s rights charity the Fawcett
Society, concluded that by the time children
reach the end of infant school, they have already
developed a clear sense of what is expected of boys
and girls, and how they are supposed to behave, and
that children’s career aspirations are shaped and
restricted by gender stereotyping.
Jingmei warns that the glass ceiling—an invisible
barrier that keeps a given demographic from rising
beyond a certain level in a hierarchy—is typically
formed very early in life.
“Conversations surrounding gender balance
at home are usually dominated by parenthood:
who wears the pants, who does the washing and
cleaning, who stays at home with the kids and so
on. We need to be mindful about gender balance at
home from the very start, for ourselves, and for our
future,” she says.
Gendered toys contribute to stereotypes.
need to be
those boxes, at
we can change
to make the
Ada Lovelace Day
of the 53 STEM
companies in the FTSE
100 have met the
target of 33% women on
their boards, according
to statistics from the
Women in STEM