This year on International Women’s Day, efforts to advance gender equality and sustainable development go hand in hand. The UN is commemorating the day under the theme “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up for Gender Equality,” highlighting the importance of closing the gap in gender equality while building momentum to implement the Sustainable Development agenda.
Stepping it up for gender equality is crucial in a world faced with global climate change. According to the 2015 UNESCO Science Report, women around the globe are disproportionately affected by extreme weather events, and typically have less access to the economic resources, opportunities, and security needed to manage these challenges, compared to men. That makes women far more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Part of the problem is that women are not being adequately included in the solution. It is no surprise that women are underrepresented in the fields that are crucial to reducing the worst effects of climate change: scientific research in sustainable energy and engineering.
The UNESCO report finds that women make up just 28 percent of researchers worldwide. That number is even lower in fields like engineering, which are critical for the development of new technologies needed for a more sustainable future. And even if they do find an entry point into these important fields, women scientists still have less access to senior positions, resources, and research funding, due in part to discrimination.
But there’s good news. In Southeast Asia, a region highly susceptible to climate-related disasters, the overall share of women in science is growing, and it couldn’t come at a better time. By 2035, ASEAN’s energy needs are projected to more than double to meet the region’s targeted economic growth. Sustainable energy will be crucial in fulfilling these growing needs while reducing Southeast Asia’s climate impact, and more women scientists need to be part of these conversations and solutions.
We need to ensure that women scientists around the world get more opportunities, career mentoring, and research funding. For the good of everyone, we need more minds to conduct research on sustainable energy sources, innovative technologies, and energy conscious solutions to some of the world’s lingering problems. This is not just a call for gender equality – it’s a call to activate the brightest minds around the world in order to create solutions to one of the world’s most urgent problems: global climate change.
The ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women aims to recognize the importance of women in these critical fields, and advance scientific research that will be vital for gender equality and a more sustainable planet. Together, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the U.S. Mission to ASEAN and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with UL, have launched a $25,000 Prize to recognize an early to mid-career woman scientist from the ASEAN region, whose research focuses on sustainable energy. All women scientists from an ASEAN member state who are under 40 years of age, have a higher degree, and conduct research on sustainable energy, are eligible and encouraged to apply.
The deadline to submit applications and nominations for the Prize is April 1, 2016. Learn more here. In light of the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, we are asking you to help spread the word about this opportunity to level the playing field for both women and the health of our planet.