The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their targets are expected to stimulate action and to guide a sustainable development of the planet, embracing its economic, social and environmental dimensions in a balanced way to spearhead societies towards a sustainable and equitable future.
An extraordinary level of political will has been revealed to shift the world onto a more sustainable and resilient path, building on the unfinished agenda of the Millennium Development Goals, with the participation of all countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnerships. Making the inclusive world envisioned in the 2030 Agenda a reality, and to ensure effective implementation for people, planet, and prosperity, the empowerment of women in science and the participation of the media are required.
Why Women in Science?
Science plays an important role for sustainable development from informing the formulation of evidence-based targets and indicators, to assessing progress, testing solutions, and identifying emerging risks and opportunities. The Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Development Agenda pose a number of conceptual as well as implementation challenges that will require enhancing the close collaboration between the policy and scientific communities and other stakeholders.
In social terms, the involvement of women in science is nothing less than a moral imperative. Gender equality beginning with access to educational resources is, according the 4th World Conference on Women, an inalienable, integral, and indivisible part of all human rights and freedoms.
In economic terms, the involvement of women in science is a necessity. They are regarded as an important factor of growth and development both in the case of developed and developing countries.
In terms of the environment, women in science play an essential role in the development of sustainable and ecologically sound patterns of consumption and production, along with approaches to natural resource management. Through their management and use of natural resources, women provide sustenance to their families and communities. As consumers and producers, caretakers of their families and educators, women play an important role in promoting sustainable development through their concern for the quality and sustainability of life for present and future generations.
In terms of culture, lack of access for women, and in particular to science, creates cultural barriers that ripple throughout communities, undermining the perception of these rights and freedoms among children, especially girls.
The Role and Impact of Media in:
1. Empowering Women and Girls in Science
In recent years, scholarly interest in media portrayals of women in science has emerged as a focus of media studies research, because such portrayals reflect cultural views and trends related to the status and roles of women in the workforce and society.
It is important to trace the underrepresentation and gender stereotyping found in portrayals of women in science in the mass media. Further, it is significant to define the role these media portrayals play as factors that can limit the representation and status of women in the science workforce, and to examine the potential of more progressive portrayals to broaden the participation of girls in science.
Although overt sex discrimination is rare, women in science are battling engrained bias, both at the institutional and personal levels. These biases and inequalities need to be tackled by enlightened policies and institutional good practice. But there are also some things that individual women scientists can do to boost their chances of success in a male-dominated work environment. These include developing their ability to communicate and present their science with clarity, confidence and authority.
Thus, it is of great importance to raise the profile of women in science for a variety of reasons. First, to inspire young women currently considering their options at school; second, to provide role models for women already studying science but uncertain whether they should pursue it further; and third, for justice.
There is an urgent need for more authoritative women in science voices in the media. Broadcasters themselves acknowledge that they would like to book more expert women in science to appear on their programs but struggle to find them!
2. Achieving Sustainable Development
In order to achieve a sustainable society, behavioral change is necessary, and for this change in behavior the public should have sufficient access to information, as well as an opportunity to freely express views and opinions.
The media plays a crucial role in educating and making individuals, communities, and society conscious about sustainable development, the need for more sustainable patterns of production and consumption, and encouraging action directed towards change and a more sustainable future.
The media are usually divided into printed media, the audiovisual media (including TV and radio), and the entertainment media (including cinema, drama, etc.) and the electronic media (including social media). Being an integral part of the social system, the media is a major stakeholder in the realization of sustainable development worldwide.
Culture has to be the 4th pillar of sustainable development: the psychological and sociological makeup of women and girls in science in a given culture must be taken into account when implementing scientific and technological innovations and strategies.
Scientific communication and strengthening the public understanding of science in general and the role of women in science in particular should be leveraged as a cultural instrument, not only to inform or dialogue, but also to build a higher responsibility in women’s scientific research. Society needs to acquire fundamental scientific knowledge and attitudes for developing their cultural heritage since science and society are intrinsically related, and this is the role of the media.
Considering the fundamental role media occupy in national development, and that for sustainable development to become a reality in every country, the identified issues that impede the achievement of sustainable development should be addressed, so that the media can effectively champion sustainable development efforts in all the sectors including parity in science and women’s empowerment.
The objective of the Forum is to explore ways in which both common global frameworks and regional, sub-regional, national, and local frameworks promote knowledge about and support for women and girls in science. The one-day Forum, will investigate ways in which all actors can work together to ensure that women and girls in science are perceived with dignity and recognized for their abilities.
The partnership between the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT) and the Government of Malta provides a unique opportunity to engage world leaders, UN officials, policy makers, scientists, educators, private sector, parliamentarians, civil society representing diverse constituencies and other stakeholder communities from around the world.
The insights gained from this event will be used in preparing a policy strategy that will provide a framework for the empowerment of Women and Girls in Science and the impact of Media in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals and parity in science. The Forum anticipates providing an evaluation report in 2018 on the achievements of the outcome document generated from this event. This requires clear consideration on the role of women in science in all development strategies. It also requires from policy-makers rethinking on the manner in which policies are conceived and delivered. It further requires development of partnership with media, private sector and other stakeholders.