The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), in its 55th year, has, for the first time, put women in science and technology at the top of its agenda. It represents a realisation that improving the prospects for women scientists will be crucial for improving all aspects of life for women across the globe.
The UK ‘Science is Vital’ campaign that emerged in response to the October 2010 spending review focused on the value of science for the British economy and the conclusions of the CSW commission build upon this in an interesting new direction. The summary suggests that improving equal access to science and technology can help eradicate poverty and improve development. It emphasises that training in science leads to the economic empowerment of women and that focusing on the provision of science education will help towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The commission also recognised that improving participation in science also equips women with the knowledge required for full engagement in political and social issues, as many of these involve science, such as the prevention of maternal illness and HIV. The concluding document stresses that science is important for improving the lives of women in both developed and developing countries; though in different ways.
The commission formally recognises that women’s rights, economic development and science and technology are critically linked. The hope is that this will encourage connections with other commissions within the UN, such as the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
This recent effort by the CSW is a promising first step towards the application of science as means to achieving gender equality.