Removing the Blinders: Fighting stereotypes to promote equal opportunity
The OECD has been working to tackle gender inequality for decades, and in particular since 2011, when we launched the Gender Strategy and the OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship. The OECD advanced this agenda during Australia’s 2014 Presidency of the G20 when leaders made a strong commitment to reduce the gender gap in labour force participation by 25 percent by 2025. Since then, all G20 presidencies have tackled a gender angle in their agendas.
However, progress has been very slow, because beyond the structural issues and policies, there is a cultural and social representation of what means to be a boy or to be a girl. The expectations and the level of ambition that is nurtured in the home varies between boys and girls. They determine what women should aspire to, what they perceive themselves as capable of, which, more often than not, leads to lower levels of ambition and self-confidence in our girls. The same culture promotes men to be competitive, and to fight hard, which can lead to damaging and even to dangerous outcomes.
Such stereotypes have nothing to do with the inherent capacities, but in what the world expects from us. Unfortunately, we have demonstrated through our PISA surveys and recent studies, that the level of confidence for girls is lower, and their families have lower expectations for them. This is reinforced by gender stereotyping in school textbooks, in the media, and online in social networks. The lack of visible inspiring women in disciplines that are usually considered “for men”, results in the vicious cycle of women not opting for careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and in information and communication technologies (ICT). Such choices determine their outcomes, helping contribute to the gender pay gap in OECD countries that stands around 14%.
The Paris Peace Forum can help NiñaSTEMPueden inspire generations of women scientists and engineers across the world.” — Gabriela Ramos.
Twice as many boys as girls expect to become engineers, scientists, or architects, and this is often mirrored in the aspirations of parents too, which vary between their sons and daughters. Hardly surprising then, that in OECD countries, fewer than 1 in 3 engineering graduates and fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are women. This is true even despite the growth of educational attainment among women and girls, who now represent a majority of university graduates in the OECD, and despite the fact that according to the OECD’s PISA findings, girls outperform boys in collaborative problem-solving.
Because girls cannot become what they cannot see, we decided to launch NiñaSTEMPueden to connect girls with successful women in STEM careers and to inspire them to follow in their footsteps. These role-models show girls that they can follow their passions and their abilities to thrive in any STEM related field. The transformative effect of these positive role-models, whether astronauts, architects, coders or engineers, is inspiring to witness. We look forward to seeing you at the Paris Peace Forum 2019 to share more about this project and to expand it to new countries and contexts to empower every girl who aspires to a career in STEM.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa to the G20.
Besides supporting the Strategic Agenda of the Secretary General, she is responsible for the contributions of the Organisation to the global agenda, including the G20 and the G7. She leads the Inclusive Growth Initiative and the New Approaches to Economic Challenges and also oversees the work on Education, Employment and Social Affairs (including gender).
Previously, she served as Head of the OECD Office in Mexico and Latin America, co-ordinating several reports on Mexico to advance the health and education reform. She developed the OECD’s Mexico Forum and edited and launched the “Getting it Right” flagship publication series. Prior to joining the OECD, Ms Ramos held several positions in the Mexican Government, including Director of Economic Affairs (and OECD issues) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Technical Secretary at the Office of the Minister for the Budget. She has also held several positions as Professor of International Economy at the Universidad Iberoamericana and at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. Ms Ramos holds an MA in Public Policy from Harvard University, and was a Fulbright and Ford MacArthur fellow. She was decorated with the Ordre du Merit by the President of France, François
Hollande, in 2013.