Published: 12:25, March 10, 2023 | Updated: 12:25, March 10, 2023
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Support to be given to women in STEM fields
By Zhang Zhihao

Commentators provide suggestions on how to better bridge gender inequality

Scientists monitor the operation of China's Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) at the Institute of High Energy Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 18, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

China will support women pursuing careers and playing larger roles in education, science and technology, and innovation, thus promoting gender equality and unleashing the potential of female science workforce, officials and experts said.

Sci-tech development in the 21st century has brought unprecedented progress to females' social, economic and political status worldwide, said Mabel Lu Miao, secretary-general of the Center for China and Globalization.

Men make up the largest majority of creators and decision-makers in the field of innovation and technology, which can bring inherent biases in design and applications of technology.

Smriti Aryal, head of UN Women in China

However, this progress has also introduced challenges such as gender inequality, gender violence and the lack of career progression and representation in leadership roles, she said during a symposium hosted by the CCG and United Nations Women in celebration of International Women's Day on Wednesday.

"We have to bridge the gender digital divide and facilitate the development of gender-responsive technology and innovation," she said.

Smriti Aryal, head of UN Women in China, said women account for less than one-third of the total global workforce in STEM fields, yet they make up a majority in unskilled labor. This puts women at risk of being replaced by automation and technological advances.

"Men make up the largest majority of creators and decision-makers in the field of innovation and technology, which can bring inherent biases in design and applications of technology," she said.

A global analysis of 133 artificial intelligence systems found that over 44.2 percent demonstrated gender biases, leading to lower service quality, unequal resource distribution and the reinforcement of harmful stereotypes, she said. "We must be conscious and intentional when creating gender-inclusive technology."

Aryal said it is vital to support young women in STEM education and careers, establish female role models and reduce technology-assisted gender harassment and violence.

Siddharth Chatterjee, the UN development system resident coordinator in China, said the digital divide has become the new face of gender inequality, and exclusion of women from the digital space has a massive economic and social cost.

According to a 2022 gender snapshot report by UN Women, women's exclusion from the digital world has shaved off about $1 trillion from the gross domestic product of low and middle-income countries in the last decade. This loss will grow to about $1.5 trillion by 2025 if unabated.

To tackle this challenge, Chatterjee said governments, the private sector and others must invest in evidence-based programs that effectively give women and girls the access and skills to lead and shape the digital landscape.

Chen Dali, deputy director of the Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges at China's Ministry of Education, said China attaches great importance to supporting women's education and rights.

China currently has 18.94 million female high school students, accounting for 48 percent of the nation's total, he said. Female students also make up 53 percent of all undergraduate students in China, with 10.08 million students, while contributing to 51 percent of all graduate students at 1.71 million.

Female science workers make up nearly 45 percent of China's science workforce and have made key contributions to manned spaceflight, space exploration, computer science, medicine and other fields.

Chen said that China would continue to support women's pursuit of education and careers in science and technology, and grant them more opportunities in decision-making and exchanges.

zhangzhihao@chinadaily.com.cn