“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy,” Marie Curie, two-time Nobel Laureate in Physics and Chemistry.
Being the first woman to win Nobel Prize, Marie Curie was considered a superhero in Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM). At a time when women’s rights were still at infancy, her first accomplishment in STEM in the early 1900 and 1920s defied so much gender biases.
Nonetheless, fast-forward more than 100 years later; women around the world are still faced with barriers to thrive in STEM.
Even though STEM is a big part of our lives, who participates in the STEM industry does not reflect its users. According to UNESCO only 2 out of 10 women choose STEM as a career. This is correlated to the gender gap at the secondary level, especially in physics, engineering and IT.
To increase the awareness of women and girls in STEM, UNDP Indonesia recently hosted its first SDGTalks focusing on the SDG #5 – Gender Equality, in celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in STEM. This impactful event brought together students with some of Indonesia’s top women in STEM - Tengku Alia Sandra, Signal Engineer of MRT Indonesia and Verania Andria, PhD a Renewable Energy Advisor of UNDP Indonesia.
“It’s extremely important to create spaces where girls are encouraged to participate in STEM. By showing representation in the industry and consistently fostering an environment where they can connect with those role models face to face, it builds self confidence in their capabilities to excel in STEM” – Yenny Widjaja, UNDP Indonesia Gender Specialist.
Self-confidence, determination and resilience were overarching themes in the advice given by UNDP Indonesia Deputy Country Director Sophie Kemkhadze, Sandra and Andria to the next generation women in STEM. “As women, we can inspire many people with the talents we have…we have certain abilities…we don't need to be ashamed to show that talent and should never think or feel inferior that we have that ability” - Tengku Alia Sandra
“I wanted to show that I can really do physics. I was really self-driven to try and challenged myself and then learned that is my passion. So I do it [physics] passionately. I think, if I can, you can do it too. Therefore, find out what is our passion and live it” - Verania Andria, PhD a Renewable Energy, Advisor UNDP Indonesia.
The Maskerteens, Ayu sekar, Alia Reiza, and Ashila Maitsa the intellectual minds behind an anti-pollution biodegradable mask echoes the capacity of young women’s being innovators for change. “For all of our friends, especially those who are still in school and of the same age as us. Do not be afraid and shy to explore what is in Indonesia or throughout the world. From there, you will know where your potential is. So, don't be afraid to point out who you are and what you want to achieve”.
Progress has been made for women in STEM since Marie Curie’s era, but barriers still exist for women in STEM in the 21st century. Let’s ensure gender equality in STEM for the next generation of STEM superheroes.
By Kiana Bonnick