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Improving the pathway from school to STEM careers for girls and women

Eliana Rubiano-Matulevich's picture

The launch of the Human Capital Project has galvanized global action to close human capital gaps, and has highlighted the importance of investments in the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives, to realize their potential as productive members of society.

Improving both the quantity and quality of education is pivotal to empowering young people to fulfill their potential. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is critical not only for fulfilling the needs of the future workforce, but also for producing researchers and innovators who can help to solve intractable challenges.

The underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM gets a lot of attention, but the data on access to, and quality of, education shows that the story is more nuanced.

At primary school level globally, there is gender parity in both enrollment and completion–a remarkable achievement of recent times. Gender gaps emerge in a number of low-income countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in some Latin American countries there are ‘reverse’ gender gaps (with boys less likely to attend or complete primary school). Overall, gender gaps (where they exist) are modest in comparison to the gaps between rich and low-income countries.

When it comes to academic performance, girls often do as well as, or better than, boys in science and mathematics.

In primary schools, there are no gender differences in science achievement in more than half of the 47 countries where performance is measured (Figure 1). Girls score higher than boys in 26 percent of the countries. The difference in achievement is almost three-times higher when girls score more than boys compared to when boys score more than girls. Results for mathematics achievement are similar. There are no gender differences in about half of the countries with data, but boys score better than girls in 37 percent of the countries.

Figure 1: Primary-school girls perform as well as boys in science and mathematics

Source: TIMSS 2015 Assessment Frameworks. Data for 4th graders in 47 countries. Box plots show the first quartile, median and third quartile of the test scores. The whiskers correspond to the minimum and maximum scores. Outliers are represented by a dot.

#TechWomenAfrica: Female role models lead the way in Sub-Saharan Africa’s digital transformation

Alicia Hammond's picture



It’s often said that you cannot be what you cannot see. The truth of this adage is becoming clear especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, where a lack of female role models is increasingly cited as a key driver of women’s underrepresentation in these fields. But a new generation of female role models is emerging in technology, and some hope that their increased visibility will help confront gender stereotypes that often discourage young women from pursuing the careers of the future.

Can tackling childcare fix STEM’s gender diversity problem?

Rudaba Z. Nasir's picture
Girls attend school. Pakistan. © Caroline Suzman/World Bank
Girls attend school. Pakistan. © Caroline Suzman/World Bank


Growing up in Pakistan, I often wondered why boys were expected to become doctors or engineers while girls, including me, were encouraged to pursue teaching or home economics. So, when my cousin Sana became the first woman in my family to start a career in engineering, she also became my idol. But a few months later, my excitement soured when Sana quit her job halfway through her first pregnancy. Sana’s story, however, is not unique. Women make up less than 18 percent of Pakistan’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Traditional gender roles and lack of access to formal childcare often play a critical role in many women’s decisions to forgo STEM careers.

Three ways to manage construction risk to support infrastructure investment

Eric Dean Cook's picture


Photo: Pixabay

At the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) Advisory Council Meeting in March, we talked about construction risk and the way it shapes the delivery environment early in a project’s investment life. As a practicing engineer accustomed to attacking construction risk at the granular level, I enjoyed the broader discussion, particularly from the banking and credit perspective (meeting outcomes).

Unfortunately, construction risk realization will continue to be the norm. Perhaps we need to consider taking the longer view to reach potential investors by aligning the risk environment with risk tolerance.

Here are three ways to do this:

Who will add value in Africa? Who will cure? Who will build?

Andreas Blom's picture

 Dasan Bobo/World Bank​From my seat as an Education economist at the World Bank, I go through a number of strategies from countries and sectors in Africa outlining how best to achieve economic growth and development. I am repeatedly struck by a key question: Who will do it? Who will add value to African exports? Who will build? Who will invent? Who will cure? The answer is, of course, that graduates from African universities and training institutions should do it. But the problem is one of numbers and quality—there are simply not enough graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and programs are of uneven quality.
 

Rehabilitating roads.... one SMS at a time...

Chris Bennett's picture

The SMS message was “Drainage is not being done properly in the village Achajur. Please fix.” While it was disturbing to hear that there were problems in one of the projects I was responsible for, at the same time I was very encouraged since this proved the value of an SMS-based system we developed to facilitate local residents advising on social, environmental or engineering issues on our project.

Ingenious Engineers for India

Andreas Blom's picture

With its massive talent-base, a unique ability to attract its best and brightest students to the engineering discipline, and the presence of some of the world’s leading companies, India has an enormous potential to modernize its economy through engineering education and technology.

However, I think the potential is not fully exploited. The majority of new engineers in India are superb at rote memorization useful to pass paper exams. Many students, however, are less skilled at solving real-life problems with creativity. Also they lack communication and team skills in order to succeed in a demanding international setting.