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The Leaky Pipeline: Gender Barriers in Science, Engineering and Technology

February 5, 2002

Presenter: Sophia Huyer, Executive Director of the Gender Advisory Board of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNSCD)

Chaired by: Robert Watson, Chief Scientist, World Bank
Introduced by:
Lynn Brown, Communications Specialist, Rural Development, World Bank

Sophia Huyer discussed issues and barriers to the participation of girls and women in science and technology, including socio-cultural issues; role models; curricula and education; and university research and industry employment. Sophia talked about some of the potential strategies to address these issues.

Women are under-represented at every level of science and technology (S&T). They are under-educated, have fewer credentials, are under-employed and clearly under-promoted around the world. The leaky pipeline is a concept that has been used to refer to the steady attrition of girls and women throughout the formal S&T system, from primary education to S&T decision making. There are five major barriers to women and girls’ participation in S&T, or ‘leaks’ in the pipeline. These are identified as: socio-cultural attitudes; education; academic appointments; science and technology professions; S&T development and transfer. Sophia Huyer outlined the main elements of each attrition barrier and discussed some of the strategies being developed for reversing this trend.

Sophia Huyer is the Executive Director of the Gender Advisory Board of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNSCD), which supports governments and international agencies in incorporating gender into S&T policy. She also serves as the Director of Women in Global Science and Technology (WIGSAT), an international NGO supporting global networking and advocacy with a focus on women and ICT. Sophia has 12 years experience in policy, project and consulting work in gender, S&T and development. Her interests include supporting and highlighting women's use and innovation of technologies to improve their productivity, well-being, income, and support their management of the natural environment. Ms. Huyer holds a PhD in Environmental Studies from York University, Toronto, where she studied the organization and strategies of social movements in the context of economic globalization.

Updated: 6/9/04

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