Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean



The Maghreb countries have the highest rates of women engineers in the world

Women account for only 28% of engineering graduates (photo: L'Oreal-Unesco)
Women account for only 28% of engineering graduates (photo: L'Oreal-Unesco)
MAGHREB. In its latest report on science entitled "The race against time for a more intelligent development" published on Thursday, February 11, 2021, UNESCO denounces the low proportion of women engineering graduates in the world. They are only 28% against 40% in computer science. "Even today in the 21st century, women and girls are kept out of science-related fields because of their gender. Women need to know that they can excel in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and that they have the right to participate in scientific progress," comments Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

In a chapter of the UNESCO report entitled "To be smart, the digital revolution will have to be inclusive ", they point out that several OECD member countries, and not the least, do not even manage to reach this average of 28%. France, for example, has only 26.1% women engineers, the United States 20.4%, Canada 19.7% and Japan 14%.

This observation is made at a time when most of the technological fields of the fourth industrial revolution are facing a shortage of talent. "Women risk missing out on tomorrow's jobs," the authors worry. All the more so since a communication from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its 2018 edition states that less than 2% of girls plan to become engineers or computer scientists. Even among the top students, in thirty-four of the sixty-three countries studied, boys were more likely than girls to consider a career in science and engineering. PISA notes that teenagers are most attracted to jobs with a high risk of automation.

Algerian women represent 48.5% of the country's engineering graduates

The Maghreb countries have the highest rates of women engineers in the world
The report "The race against time for a smarter development" overturns preconceived ideas by showing that the strongest representation of women among engineering graduates are in the Arab States and particularly in Algeria (48.5%), Morocco (42.2%), Syria (43.9%) and Tunisia (44.2%). Only a few Latin American countries arrive at similar figures (47.5% in Peru, 45.9% in Uruguay, 41.7% in Cuba).

Parity in research posts is steadily increasing in the Southern Mediterranean. UNESCO notes that their number has increased from 35% in 2005 to 47.1% in 2017 in Algeria and from 36% to 45.6% in Egypt over the same period. These are promising figures, even if these averages mask huge disparities according to research fields. For example, Algerian women researchers represent only 42.7% of positions in engineering and technology but 71.7% in natural sciences. Egyptian women 28.9% in engineering and technology and 48.9% in health and social services.

In the academic world, "the proportion of women decreases as the hierarchical level increases," says the report. Thus, in Algeria, women researchers constitute 51% of the workforce at the first hierarchical level (doctoral students recruited as researchers or researchers without a doctorate), and only 20% at the fourth level (research director or full professor). An almost identical gap (48% to 24%) is observed in the European Union, while it is less in Egypt (51.2% to 35.5%).
Their careers are shorter because of two main factors: maintaining a balance between work and family life and the gender pay gap.

This UNESCO report focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution was produced with the support of the Ipsen Foundation. It will be published in its entirety in April 2021.

Read the chapter "To be smart, the digital revolution will need to be inclusive" from the Unesco science report (in english)

Frédéric Dubessy

Thursday, February 11th 2021

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