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DOST Chief vows to empower women, creates equal opportunities to pursue S&T related careers

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In photo: DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña in his massage shared the intention of DOST to develop STI policies that could empower and support both women and men to attain sustainable development (Photo from DOST-STII PR)

For more almost two years, the entire world has been battling against the COVID-19 pandemic. And through this, we have seen how most of the women have stepped up and led some of the impressive ground-breaking researchers into public health, vaccines, treatments, and innovative technology.

However, it seems they were gaps that need to be addressed as these claims have not been supported by the recent UNESCO’s Science Report. 

In the said publication, only 33% of researchers are women, despite the fact that they represent 45% and 55% of students at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels of study respectively, and 44% of those enrolled in Ph.D. programs. Additionally, while 70% of health and social care workers are women, they are paid 11% less than their male counterparts.

In a special forum related to the celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science held on 11 February 2022, Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña shared that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) could play a significant role to close the gender gaps in science and address the stereotypes of limited career paths for girls in various fields of science both in the academic and professional spheres. This is where gender mainstreaming comes to play for DOST.

“We understand the importance of gender mainstreaming where the end goal is gender equality, particularly, many capacity building activities were already conducted to enhance the skills of DOST employees to effectively mainstream gender in our policies, programs, projects, and activities,” said Sec. de la Peña. 

As an example, the science chief shared the Gender and Development (GAD) programs of the DOST-Philippine Science High School System (PSHSS) that could address the particular obstacles that keep female students away from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM.

“These should train teachers to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers, to develop curricula that are gender-sensitive, and to mentor girls and young women and change mindsets,” continued Sec. de la Peña.

He believes that reducing the gender gap in STEM education could help lessen the skills gap, accelerate employment, and improve the productivity of women as well as decrease occupational segregation. 

To pursue this advocacy, Sec. de la Peña shared the intention of DOST to develop STI policies that could empower and support both women and men to attain sustainable development. While economic progress can improve the status of women, Sec. de la Peña believes that our country cannot advance if women are left behind.

“We should provide opportunities for women to participate in S&T as well as develop and implement S&T approaches which benefit women through consulting and working with women in the choice, development, and application of technologies; provide them access to resources and ensure their contribution to and benefit from S&T innovations,” said Sec. de la Peña.

Engendering the S&T research

In this forum, DOST-National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) Executive Director Marieta B. Sumagaysay shared numerous tips on gender mainstreaming in the field of S&T to ensure equal participation of women and men in S&T research. 

In her presentation, Dr. Sumagaysay explained that engendering S&T would eliminate barriers to women’s employment in S&T fields and provide more opportunities for women scientists to translate science into socially relevant and economically-rewarding initiatives. 

In order to achieve this in the context of S&T research, DOST and its partner institutions should design gender-sensitive research with both men and women in mind when research problems are formulated.

In her presentation, DOST-NRCP Executive Director Marieta B. Sumagaysay underscores the importance of engendering S&T research to ensure the equal participation of women and men.  

“To have a better appreciation, we can answer these questions. How do men and women relate differently to the situation or problem? Are men and women represented equally in decision-making bodies? Did the researcher use gender-sensitive literature?” said Dr. Sumagaysay

Dr. Sumagaysay also shared an additional tip; that is to apply a gender-sensitive methodological structure. For example, in the conduct of surveys and data collection, are the questionnaires designed so that they are both relevant to both men and women? Moreover, she said there is a need to produce gender-sensitive outcomes and outputs and gender-responsive utilization of research results. 

Lastly, Dr. Sumagaysay admitted that engendering S&T research would take time due to various factors such as researcher’s lack of appreciation on the importance of gender equality and gender sensitivity, the perception that it would make S&T research less of a science, and the mindset that S&T is not essential for all development and humanitarian activities. 

“As a researcher. I would advise that we gender-sensitize our researchers, scientists, or engineers before we throw them into the field because when they are in the field, they are confident that they have the skills and knowledge, they know what to do. Therefore, the bias against a woman or a man would not be emphasized and the community would look at them as someone who knows the trade and not as a researcher as a woman who may not know the trade,” concluded Dr. Sumagaysay.

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