Teachers and guidance counsellors to undertake training aiming to break the stereotypes that there are ‘gendered occupations’, gender equality commissioner Josie Christodoulou said on Friday.
The move is part of the government’s efforts to address the gender gaps identified in certain working fields, especially those related to the sciences.
Speaking at the first WMSC (Women in Mathematical Sciences) workshop organised at the Institute of Neurology and Genetics in Nicosia, the gender equality commissioner noted the need for changes in education to promote the participation of women in STEM.
Only four per cent women compared with 27 per cent men work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professions in Europe, Christodoulou said citing European Institute for Gender Equality data.
“In general, the rates of both women and men in STEM professions in Cyprus are among the lowest in the EU,” she declared.
To address this, the president recently announced that ten scholarships for undergraduate studies will be awarded to women aged 30 and older who for whatever reasons were unable to study earlier. This year the scholarships concern studies in fields of innovation and technology.
Furthermore, in cooperation with the deputy ministry for research, innovation and technology, the gender equality commissioner’s office is planning to implement a series of actions, including a monthly campaign to showcase role models or success stories of women in the above-mentioned fields.
A series of seminars for teachers and career guidance counsellors is being planned in cooperation with the education ministry, she added. “The aim is to dispel subconscious prejudices that often lead girls and boys into professions based on stereotypes and so-called traditional female and male professions,” the commissioner explained.
It is crucial that women participate in STEM fields, Christodoulou highlighted, citing an example from the early design of car airbags according to male body specifications, resulting in the loss of women’s lives in road accidents.
“Boosting women’s representation not only means a safer and friendlier world for all…but equal representation also offers diversity of perspectives for decisions in all sectors, which is undoubtedly a competitive advantage,” she added.
Then, she stressed the importance of recognising women’s standards, noting that this does not imply the downgrading of men’s standards.
To this end, the public and private sector should cooperate, as well as civil society, “to create a supportive and inclusive culture that promotes gender equality”.