National Assessments on Gender Equality in the Knowledge Society

National Assessments on Gender Equality in the Knowledge Society

Gender in science, technology and innovation



Sophia Huyer, Executive Director, WISAT

Nancy Hafkin, Senior Associate, WISAT

Data support: Dela Kusi-Appouh


National Researchers:

1. Brazil

Alice Rangel de Paiva Abreu, Professora Emérita, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Maria Coleta F A de Oliveira, Demography Department, Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences,

Campinas State University (UNICAMP)


2. India

Sudha Nair, Gender Advisory Board, United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development

(UNCSTD), India


3. Indonesia

Wati Hermawati, Researcher, PAPPIPTEK-LIPI, Indonesian Institute of Sciences

Rina Sufiani Saari, Head of Library Services Section, Centre for Scientific Documentation and Information - Indonesian

Institute of Sciences


3. Republic of Korea

Young Ock Kim, Director, Labour-Statistics, Research Department, Korean Women’s Development Institute

You-Kyung Moon, Research Fellow, Labor and Statistics Research Department, KWDI


4. South Africa

Nelius Boshoff, Senior Researcher, Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST)/ South Africa

Academy of Sciences (ASSAf)


5. USA

Rachel Ivie, American Institute of Physics

Arnell Ephraim, American Institute of Physics


6. European Union

Elias Sanz Casado, Professor, Department of Library Sciences and Director of the Laboratory of Metric Studies of

Information (LEMI), Universidad Carlos III Madrid, Spain

Daniela de Filippo, Researcher, Department of Library Sciences Universidad de Carlos III Madrid, Spain


About the National Assessments on Gender and STI:

This project is a joint initiative of Women in Global Science and Technology (WISAT) and the Organization for

Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD). It is supported by the futureInnovate.net software platform

and the Elsevier Foundation.

More information on the project, including national reports and the Results Scorecard, are available at:




Sophia Huyer, Executive Director, WISAT

shuyer@wigsat.org, www.wigsat.org


Gender Equality in the Knowledge Society

Women's contributions to sustainable socio-economic development as food producers and providers, owners of micro and small-scale enterprises, healthcare providers, household managers, educators and natural resource managers1, are critical to the achievement of poverty reduction and the MDGs. However, they are poorly represented at all levels of decision making, earn less income than men with lower levels of employment – frequently in the nonformal sector, experience the effects of poverty more severely than men, and are expected to manage their activities with fewer resources.


The global community has recognized this lack of support for women's contributions. FAO notes that if female farmers had the same access to productive resources as male farmers (fertilizers, extension services, agricultural information, finance and land), their agricultural yields could increase by 20 to 30 percent, in turn increasing national agricultural production by 2.5 to 4 percent and reducing the number of malnourished people by 12 to 17 percent2. If women’s paid employment rates were raised to the same level as men’s, it is estimated the GDPs of the United States, Japan, UAE and Egypt would increase by 5, 9, 12 and 34 percentage points respectively3.


A gender imbalance also exists in STI education, where males outnumber females worldwide due to a range of barriers for females such as their need for safety and security, teaching methods that favour boys, preconceptions that S&T is a male domain, and unwillingness of families to support their daughters at higher levels of education. Males also outnumber females in technical and vocational education worldwide. At higher levels of education the number of women in STI falls continuously from secondary school to university, laboratories, teaching and decision making. There are consistently low levels of women in the skilled technology workforce in the private sector, with even fewer females in senior management and as leaders of large companies4.


In the increasingly important area of access to communication, women have lower levels of access to ICTs such as internet and smartphones in the majority of countries in the world. The Cherie Blair Foundation has identified a large gender gap in use of mobile phones: globally a woman is 21% less likely to own a mobile than a man, a figure which increases to 23% in Africa, 24% in the Arab world, and 37% in South Asia – leaving a total of 300 million women5 without such access.


A strong national base of science and technology capacity is at the core of long-term economic growth, innovation and research. It is a prerequisite for improving the lives of the poor through better nutrition and health, higher crop yields, cleaner water, providing clean and renewable energy sources and improved soil and natural resources management. It will also be needed to face challenges such as climate change and economic shocks. Building national capacity for adoption, adaptation, innovation and technological diffusion of basic and medium technologies is important for job creation and poverty reduction, while increasing productivity, establishing infrastructure services, providing access to new markets, and improving management of natural resources. 6


STI is also needed to support women's livelihood, domestic and natural resource management activities. "Women's roles roles as food producers, educators of their children, family caregivers and community managers will need to be underpinned by STI resources in order for countries to meet many of the MDG targets (UNCTAD, 2011:3)."


Gendered barriers to STI and technology access and use create a large gender in the knowledge society that will not improve automatically with economic growth.


These gaps in women's access to resources, opportunities, S&T education and employment, and technologies are depriving countries of women’s experience, creativity and ability. They are a waste of the resources invested in the education and support of women and girls and in the national technology and extension systems that do not reach a substantial portion of the population. Developing a scientific and technological workforce as well as supporting a population to understand and use S&T to improve their lives and livelihoods will help to bridge these gaps. Countries will need to mobilize the active participation of women and other underrepresented groups in the science, engineering and technology (SET) and information technology (IT) workforces, and improve the ability of these groups to develop and use technologies in areas such as food production, water and sanitation, and energy.


The Gender Equality – Knowledge Society (GE&KS) indicator framework was developed to address the fact that women — particularly those in the developing world — find themselves on the wrong side of both the digital divide and the knowledge divide. Worldwide, their capacity to participate in science, technology and innovation is grossly under-developed and under-utilized. They are at risk of becoming increasingly marginalized in national knowledge societies and science, technology and innovation systems: not only do they have less access to information and technology, they are poorly represented in educational, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities. From a rights perspective, in order to promote sustainable economic growth, and to achievement poverty reduction and development goals, it is important to ensure that women have the access and the opportunity to design, create and take advantage of the opportunities of the knowledge society.

The Framework on Gender Equality and the Knowledge Society

The Framework on Gender Equality and the Knowledge Society (GE&KS) brings together gender-sensitive data on key areas in the knowledge society (ICT, science, technology and innovation) with gender indicators of health, economic and social status and other areas.


Gender equality and empowerment are integrated into this framework because they constitute the base conditions for women's successful participation in the knowledge society. Comparative analysis of the GE&KS indicators will help to arrive at identification of sex-specific trends which can lead to better research, practice, assessment and evidence-based recommendations that will shed light on the closing of knowledge divides.


The picture of women’s participation in the knowledge society will be incomplete without some understanding of the context of women’s lives in a given country. What are women’s economic activities, participation in economic and political decision-making, knowledge and skills, their health, well-being, status and the conditions under which they live? No matter what the level of development or GDP of their countries, these factors all condition women’s ability to participate in the knowledge society, often in ways that are quite different from men. For example, women’s agency is central to gender empowerment in the knowledge society: women will achieve equality if they are actors in the process of change in their own lives and communities. Women will be in a position to effectively contribute and benefit from the knowledge society if they have the full range of gender equality rights, benefits and opportunities.


Access to education, participation in S&T and ability to earn income are not automatically connected. Numerous studies hve shown that getting more girls into science and technology education at secondary and tertiary levels does not automatically lead to increased numbers of females at higher levels of S&T insitutituons, or in the S&T/knowledge society workforce7. Similarly, getting more women into the paid workforce does not ensure that they will become senior managers, leaders or decision makers in either the public or private sectors.


In constructing this framework, a small number of simple indicators was identified that would be relevant to key policy issues, comparable and affordable to collect. The importance of developing a framework that could be used and adapted by national statistical offices across a wide variety of countries was taken into account. Framework indicators were drawn from the major international gender equity indexes and databases along with the major STI, ICT and knowledge indexes8.


The GE&KS framework is organized into three sections – Inputs, Outcomes and Enabling Policies, each

comprised of key data indicators9:












Inputs Supporting




- Healthy life expectancy

- Prevalence of disease

- Fertility

Social Status

- Sex ratio at birth

- Violence against


- Time use

Economic Status

- Economically active


- Income

- Categories of work

- Poverty

Access to


- Property rights

- Access to capital

- Access to ICT

- Quality of infrastructure

- Electricity consumption


Agency - Parliamentary representation

- Women in government

- Contraceptive use


and Capabiity

- Literacy

- Access to education

- Access to training






Knowledge society

policy environment

Gender policy

Gender budgets

Science and engineering













- Business and

corporate decision


- Science decision




- Administrative and

managerial positions

- Information technology


Science, technology




- Science and engineering


- Scientists and engineers

- Publications

- Brain drain

- Entrepreneurship


Phase One

A pilot assessment of six countries and one region took place during 2012: Brazil, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, the United States, and the European Union. The study will be expanded to other countries in   2013.


National researchers have analysed data available from national and international sources. National reports provide a situational analysis inorporating both quantitative and qualitative data and can be viewed as stand-alone reports. Data from the national studies was incorporated into the global online analysis platform which produced the cross-national comparisons and rankings.


Key Findings

The major finding of this study is that the knowledge gender divide continues to exist in all countries, even those which have a highly-developed knowledge society: Women participate at much lower levels in knowledge society decision making and the knowledge economy than men. In the science and technology sector, only in the health and life sciences (education) are they represented equally with men, and only in some countries. In all countries, female representation in the science and technology workforce is lower than male. In all countries in this review – which represent the leading knowledge-based economies in the world – the knowledge society is failing to include women to an equal extent, and in some cases, their inclusion is negligible.


·       Numbers of women in the science, technology and innovation fields are alarmingly low in the world’s leading economies, and are actually on the decline in many, including the United States.


·       Women remain severely under-represented in the areas of engineering, physics and computer science — less than 30% in most countries. In addition, the numbers of women actually working in these fields are declining across the board. Even in countries where the numbers of women studying science and technology have increased, it has not translated into more women in the workplace.

·       Women have lower levels of access to the productive resources necessary to support active engagement in the knowledge society and related professions – property (land); financing; technology; and education.

·       In turn their representation in employment, entrepreneurship and research is lower in key sectors of the knowledge society.

·       Female parity in the science, technology and innovation fields is tied to multiple empowerment factors, with the most influential being higher economic status, larger roles in government and politics, access to economic, productive and technological resources, and a supportive policy environment. Findings also show that women have greater parity in countries with government policies that support health and childcare, equal pay, and gender mainstreaming.

·       The results show that access to education is not a solution in and of itself and neither is either health or economic status. Each element is only one part of what should be a multi-dimensional policymaking approach. There is no simple solution.

·       Women in most of the most countries under study are experiencing inequality of opportunity.

·       Most countries do not collect sex-disaggregated data consistently at the national and international levels. More data is necessary to inform the policies and programes that will allow countries to profit from the underutilized potential of their female population.

o Indonesia and India collect and make available the least sex-disaggregated data in all sectors, including   but not restricted to STI.


o Little or no consistent sex-disaggregated data is collected in many countries in important areas, such as business leadership, heads of universities and research institutes, skilled emigrants, publication of refereed articles, rates of HIV/AIDS infection among female youth, and others.


·       While women’s enrollment in bio and health-related sciences is high in general, female representation drops dramatically in physics and engineering, and in the transition to the S&E workforce. All of these should be clear signals to policy makers for the need to address these consistent gaps in participation.


·       Women’s low level of representation in decision-making and in formal enterprises in the private sector is a shocking gap, and in view of the share of women in informal enterprises worldwide, is a glaring inconsistency that needs to be addressed. This is particularly important when one factors in the contribution that women make to poverty eradication and food security at the local level and in informal enterprises.

·       Brazil and South Korea may represent models for encouraging and retaining women in the science, engineering and technology workforce, but particularly in South Korea women’s participation in other sectors of society, including decision-making and the private sector, are of great concern. This indicates that economic and STI development that does not take women into account will in fact leave them behind.

·       We also see that women in countries with low levels of health and/or social status are behind from the very beginning, leaving those countries with additional constraints to women’s knowledge society participation that are very difficult to overcome. These can prevail despite an enabling policy environment. India and South Africa are cases in point.


Overall findings

The European Union as a composite ranks first overall, and first or second in every other dimension except opportunity and capability. This is a remarkable result, considering the wide variation among countries in the EU in terms of social support, GDP, and promotion of science, technology and innovation (STI).


The United States ranks second overall, but fifth in health, agency, social status. Its high status overall comes from its primary ranking in the opportunity and capability and the knowledge society decision-making dimensions – educational levels of women and positions in private sector and science decision-making levels. It comes in second in economic status and access to resources. The US ranks lowest in enabling policies. While it ranks higher in other sectors, this finding indicates that a more favourable policy environment for the US could be an important strategy towards addressing economic competitors in other parts of the world and a strategy for regenerating economic growth after the economic crisis of 2010.


Brazil ranks the highest of the remaining countries, coming in above even the Republic of Korea. It is third overall, first in women's participation in the knowledge economy and science, technology and innovation, as well as agency. It is second in health, opportunity and capability and enabling policy, and third in social status, economic status and access to resources. However its low ranking (4th) in knowledge society decision-making show where improvement needs to be made in addition to those areas where it ranks third. Brazil is an example of a country with both a highly enabling policy environment for women and effective implementation strategies.


Although Indonesia comes out fourth overall, its actual status is not clear as a result of a paucity of available statistics on the situation of women. Of the countries in this study, Indonesia collects the least sex disaggregated data, with data unavailable for many of the indicators. Its positive enabling policy environment, though, gives it a strong potential for a positive outcome for women that would be clearer if supporting data were available. The available data gives it a fourth ranking in most sectors, which reflect a steady improvement over the last decade10, however current levels of economic status, access to resources, agency, health and social status indicate a need to improve the actual status of women in the country.


South Africa ranks fifth overall but first in agency. It ranks highly also in knowledge society decision making (2), third in social status, and fourth (although close to the higher ranked countries) in science, technology and innovation participation. This is likely a result of a strong educational system, a policy focus on STI, as well as a quota system implemented in various sectors of society to promote diversity of participation by race and gender. Its high rate of HIV in the population puts it last in health, while it ranks fifth in access to resources.


Republic of Korea – While it ranks first in health it is last several sectors, including economic status, access to resources, enabling policy, knowledge economy and STI participation. It ranks second to last (sixth) overall. This reflects the situation that even though it ranks third in opportunity and capability it sees a low level of female participation in public and economic life in both public and private sectors. This shows the country has failed to adequately support its women to participate actively in its economic success. It also shows the lack of correlation between a country’s GDP and gender equality.


India ranks the lowest overall and in most categories, except in economic status; knowledge economy, enabling policy; and health. While its enabling policy environment is very positive and has been in place for many years, implementation and funding needs to increase substantially before its women can equally benefit from its innovation advantage. There are definite signs of progress, though. It has achieved universal primary education enrollment for example. However, size of the population mitigates against a rate of change as rapid as a country such as Indonesia or Brazil.





1 UNCTAD, 2011. Applying a Gender Lens to Science, Technology and Innovation. Current Studies on Science, Technology and Innovation, No. 5 ed. Geneva: United Nations.

2 Food and Agriculture Organization, 2011. The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011: Women in Agriculture, Closing the gender gap for development. Rome: FAO.

3 Aguirre, D., L. Hoteit, C. Rupp, K. Sabbagh, 2012. Empowering the Third Billion: Women and the World of Work in

2012. [Briefing, Booz&Co.]. Available from: www.booz.com/global/home/press/display/51226251.

4 UNCTAD, 2011; UNESCO, 2007. Science, Technology, and Gender: An International Report. Paris: UNESCO; UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), 2011. Global Education Digest 2011. Montreal, Canada: UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

5 GSMA Development Fund and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, 2010. Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity. Available from:


6 Juma, Calestous and Lee Yee-Cheong, 2006. Innovation: Applying knowledge for development. UN Millennium Project Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation ed. London: Earthscan; UNDP, 2005. Botswana Human Development Report: Harnessing Science and Technology for Human Development. Gabarone: UNDP.

7 See UNESCO 2011, and American Assocation of University Women (AAUW), 2010. Why so Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. February. Washington: AAUW.

8 See Huyer, S. and Hafkin, N. 2007. Engendering the Knowledge Society: Measuring Women's Participation. Ottawa: National Research Centre and Orbicom.

9 For the reasons behind the choice of indicators, see Huyer, Sophia, Nancy Hafkin, Heidi Ertl,and Heather Dryburgh,

2005. Women in the Information Society. In Sciadis, G., ed. From the digital divide to digital opportunities: Measuring

infostates for development. Montreal: Orbicom.

10 Lack of data for many indicators means that Indonesia's ranking may change as more data and expert analysis are

incorporated into the study.


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