Statement by H.E. Ambassador Katalin Bogyay at the panel discussion “Development Cooperation Perspective on the Role of Women in Science and Media in Implementing the SDGs” on the occasion of the Second Commemoration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 10 February 2017.
Distinguished Panelists and Colleagues,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a women diplomat, former journalist and a professional who worked extensively in and with the media for many years, a strong supporter of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and as a firm believer in the power of science, I am honoured to speak at today’s commemoration day.
Science is an integral part of Agenda 2030, and we welcome that the multi-stakeholder Forum on Science Technology and Innovation for the SDGs should strengthen the science-policy interface. The most important difference compared to the MDGs and at the same time the largest challenge and opportunity lies in bringing together the implementation of science-related goals with gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
The SDGs set out investing in women especially in the areas of education health and employability Still , women today lack equal access to and participation in the political, economic, public, cultural and also scientific field, including qualification, employment, remuneration, career opportunities, decision-making and leadership.
However the empowerment of women and girls is an essential contribution to sustainability at all stages of development, including from emergency relief, through conflict resolution, recovery, peacekeeping and peace-building. The ability of women to achieve behavioural change and cultural shift is the greatest potential for sustainable social development and inclusive economic growth.
In science, a significant gender gap persists all over the world, including in technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). According to the most recent UNESCO Science Report, women account for only 28% of researchers across the world. Gender equality in STEM is not only a matter of fairness. The untapped potential of brilliant girls and women is a great loss of opportunity, both for women themselves and for the society as a whole. Gender equality should therefore be considered as a crucial means to promote scientific and technological excellence.
Obstacles that women have to face are threefold: women have to face negative stereotypes, a considerable gender pay gap, and also social expectations that negatively influence their career choices, including the need for balancing family and career, fitting into the existing social structure, or simply the lack of self-confidence. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to break through gender stereotypes in the fields dominated by males, such as science and technology.
The media are powerful tools in this regard. The messages they transmit change or reinforce perceptions, social behaviour, and shape values and preferences. Distortions of reality and imbalanced coverage, including on women and their perspectives, constitutes a barrier to their empowerment. Women politicians, for example, in many countries, are under-represented in news during election campaign, and women are too often represented as victims or celebrities. Even in the media sector itself, very few women are editors or columnists, and they face more obstacles in advancing their career.
In this regard, we appreciate and support UN Women in raising awareness of gender equality among the members of the media through special workshops and toolkits.
When used wisely, media can also be a powerful tool in showing women examples of success. Through the creation of role models, media is able to encourage women and girls to act proactively and stand up for their rights. Recognising this potential, during the European Year of Development in 2015, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade appointed well-known women among our media celebrities as goodwill Ambassadors (singer Sena Dagadu and reporter Al Ghaoui Hesna) to promote women’s empowerment.
Awareness-raising should start as early as possible, in the kindergardens, primary and secondary schools. The Girls’ Day initiative, launched in Hungary in 2012 by the Association of Hungarian Women in Science (Nők a Tudományban Egyesület, NaTE), aims to attract female high school students towards natural science and technology with the aim of redoubling the ratio of female students graduating from the technology, engineering and natural sciences faculties by 2020. Last year, 1600 female high school students visited 57 collaborating scientific institutions - university labs, research institutions, private companies throughout Hungary in the framework of this programme.
Promoting gender equality should continue in the higher education as well. The scholarship programme called Stipendium Hungaricum is Hungary’s most important bilateral development cooperation programme promoting equal chances for education and development through providing access to higher education institutes for students from developing partner countries. We are happy to see that every year, there is a significant number of female applicants.
Now let us turn to examine the perspectives of women in scientific institutions.
According to the 2015 UNESCO World Science Report, in Hungary, the ratio of women in science is about 34,9%.
The Hungarian National Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality for 2010-2021 sets out that the percentage of women in leadership positions should reach at least 40% in Hungary by 2021. TheNational Research-development and Innovation Strategy for the period 2013-2020, entitled “Investment in the Future”, establishes the priority of creating equal opportunities for women in the Research, Development and Innovation sector.
Let me share some best practices from Hungary is this regard.
At the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the most prominent scientific institution in the country, assembling the most excellent researchers from all fields of science, the rate of female members has never exceeded 5-6%. In order to change this ratio, a new body called the Women in Research Careers Presidential Commission was established within the Academy in January 2017, aiming to increase the proportion of women among professors and doctors and to increase girls’ interest in natural sciences.
Another reknown initiative is the World Science Forum, launched by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, UNESCO and the International Council for Science. The Forum brings together international policy makers, scientists, and among them, many talented ad successful women, to discuss global challenges from scientific, political and economic aspects. The declaration entitled „The Enabling Power of Science”, adopted by the Forum in 2015, reflects the main goals of Agenda 2030, and underlines the importance of empowering women scientists to improve the governance of science, as well as the equitable participation of women in the practice and application of science.
Another example of efforts made to increase gender equality in scientific life is the Association of Hungarian Women in Science, a national network of researchers, professors, and engineers supporting the advancement of women, increasing their participation in the scientific field and shaping public opinion in a positive way.
The Association organizes programmes, assists individuals and organizations in writing tenders, and distributes awards to women showing excellent performance in their field of research. An example for their work is a project run together with the American Association of University Women, that enables female students to visit and get inspiration from local STEM companies. An award called the Excellence Award (“Kiválóság Díj”) is accorded each year by the Association to three female scientists in materials technology, biotechnology and space technology, with a special section for a female Roma researcher.
Since 2010, the Seadrop Prize (“Tengercsepp Díj”) is awarded annually by the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the Eszterházy Károly College, in Eger, to female professors who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in teaching, professional results, talent support, project initiation or innovation.
Recognition of women’s success and talent management is also pivotal in achieving women’s empowerment, and partnership with the private sector is indispensable in this regard. The joint Programme of L’Oréal and UNESCO for Women in Science, for instance, plays an important role in highlighting the achievements of women in their early career. We are proud of Doctor Eszter Farkas, awarded the L’Oréal UNESCO International Rising Talents grant in 2016 in the category of technology and engineering.
In conclusion, enabling women to fulfil their full potential in the scientific field is central to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, and thereby increasing their contribution to social and economic development. I equally believe that we cannot achieve sustainable development in the long run, if we do not lift culture as the fourth pillar of the Agenda 2030, beside economic prosperity, social advancement and environmental protection.
This will need multi-stakeholder partnership with media, civil society, private sector and all relevant umbrella organizations.
I hope that I inspired all of you by these best practices, and I am convinced that the distinguished audience and my fellow speakers present here today are well placed to make this happen.
Let’s stand together and act for women and girl’s future in science and their contribution to sustainable development.
I thank you for your kind attention!