Applying a gender lens to Science, Technology and Innovation

12 December 2011

Governments should take concerted steps to include women and their concerns in their efforts to boost economic growth through science, technology and innovation, a new UNCTAD report urges.​

The report, Applying a Gender Lens to Science, Technology, and Innovation, was prepared as a contribution to the fifty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

"Pursuing gender-sensitive science, technology and innovation policies is not only a human development issue - it is also smart economics "

Anne Miroux, Director
Technology and Logistics Division, UNCTAD



Based on an examination of women’s roles in a number of sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, and transport, the report argues that science, technology, and innovation (STI) will not have the broadly positive effects sought in less-wealthy regions of the world if STI policies do not specifically take into account the needs and talents of half the global population.

Further gains in development depend on fully appreciating women’s engagement in economic life and in society, the report contends; policy should be attentive not only to the differing impacts STI can have on men’s and women’s lives, but also to the significant part women play in economic growth.

This approach should be followed throughout the process of STI policymaking: from policy analysis and design to implementation, monitoring and follow-up. Recognizing this is what the report calls applying a “gender lens”.

The report identifies three areas for policy action:

  1. Science for women: developing science and technology that support women’s development and livelihood activities, especially in areas such as agriculture, water, energy and transport.
  2. Women in science: promoting gender equality in science, technology and engineering education, careers and leadership.
  3. Women in innovation: encouraging and supporting the role of women in innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship at the national and grassroots levels.

Recommendations for national governments:

  • Conduct impact assessments of policies related to STI for development to ensure that they benefit men and women equally.
  • Take into account when developing STI policies the extensive work done by women in areas such as agriculture, water and energy use.
  • Expand the education of women in scientific and technological fields, and in entrepreneurship, so that this reservoir of talent can boost economic growth and raise living standards.
  • Ensure that women have equal access to financing, land and markets so that businesses they found and the science and research they perform can have their full developmental impacts.
  • Support the participation of women in STI decision-making at all levels.

Recommendations for international action:

  • Publicize and share examples or case studies of successful efforts to include gender concerns in STI policies and programming.
  • Support governments’ efforts to include gender concerns in their STI policies through, for example, aid programmes.
  • Encourage international and national research institutes and universities to develop partnerships and collaborate with non-governmental organizations, government agencies and the private sector to support the advancement of women in science, technology and innovation, especially in developing countries.

UNCTAD is working with the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) to provide a platform for the exchange of illustrative cases of gender-sensitive STI policymaking.

The next CSTD intersessional panel will be held in Manila from 13 to 15 December 2011.