The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the critical role of women researchers in different stages of the fight against COVID-19. Earlier this week, we heard how Dr Clarissa Giebel adapted to look at the impact of the pandemic of the lives of people living with dementia, last week Dr Prerana Sabnis wrote an article discussing the work being undertaken by Dr Aida Suarez-Gonzalez, and just yesterday we were delighted to have our first blog from Thaïs Caprioli, who will be exploring the facilitators and barriers to engaging with community support services in dementia during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. These are just a few examples of the amazing work of women scientists that we feel fortunate to be associated with – Dr Anna Volkmer has discussed adapting Speech and Language Therapy Interventions, Bethany McLoughlin has adapted to explore online vs real life support groups… and many more.
At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant negative impact on women scientists, particularly affecting those at the early stages of their career, and thus contributing to widening the existing gender gap in science, and revealing the gender disparities in the scientific system, which need to be addressed by new policies, initiatives and mechanisms to support women and girls in science.
Against this backdrop, this year’s celebration of the Day led by the United Nationals, addresses the theme “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 ”, gathering together experts working in fields related to the pandemic from different parts of the world.
The 2021 event is being streamed today – 1pm to 3pm on Facebook LIVE – simultaneous interpretation of the debates is provided in English and French.
Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . Over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.
At present, less than 30 per cent  of researchers worldwide are women. According to UNESCO data  (2014 – 2016), only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in ICT (3 per cent), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5 per cent) and in engineering, manufacturing and construction (8 per cent). We are delighted that to some extent Dementia Research bucks the trend, Women make up 71% of the contributors to our own websit e- that 174 brilliant women researchers. However, long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science related fields. As in the real world, the world on screen reflects similar biases—the 2015 Gender Bias Without Borders  study by the Geena Davis Institute showed that of the onscreen characters with an identifiable STEM job, only 12 per cent were women.
In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/70/212  declaring 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science .