Global dialogue on Evidence and experience: Adolescent Girls’ Education in the Generation Equality Forum

We all know that girls’ education is crucial to advancing gender equality, and much progress has been achieved.  

But unfortunately, schools are not impermeable to societies’ cultural norms.  

Low confidence and self-esteem overwhelmingly affect young girls.   

Under pressure to please everyone, they remain belittled as unfit for male-dominated fields such as leadership or mathematics.  

Because girls believe that they are, and cannot be good enough, they underperform in STEM.  

STEM teachers themselves can have negative attitudes. In Latin America, a UNESCO study found that 20% of teachers believe mathematics are easier for boys and lowered their expectations for girls.  

Yet it’s not about skills and capacities. It’s about stereotyping.  

Countless reports, including PISA and UNESCO, claim that girls are “stereotyped as passively driven by parental, educational and general social forces beyond their control”.  

But then again: girls who dare, girls who are confident, we call them bossy.  

Because of these gender biases, women are also underrepresented in the digital world, where gender inequalities are three times higher than in the analogue world.  

In 2020, only 22% of AI professionals and barely 3% of ICT students were women.  

To counter this injustice, we need role models who challenge stereotypes.  

Research shows that female STEM teachers have positive influences on girls’ performance and career paths.  

So we need women role models, teaching and leading innovation in STEM.   

We need male role models standing up against harmful behaviours.  

We need education systems to break these bottlenecks.  

At UNESCO we have developed a Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence to fight gender biases in and through AI.  

We have launched a global Flagship against Gender Stereotypes and will establish a Global Observatory on Women and Sports.  

Let me conclude by inviting you to UNESCO’s Global Forum against Racism and Discrimination on 22 March, during which we will launch our global network of positive role models.  

OSCE Expert Roundtable on Youth and Gender Equality

A telling magnifier of the long-standing legacies of prejudice, injustice and increasing inequalities, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the flaws and cracks of our social, political and economic structures while accentuating them to the extreme.  

The impact on women and girls has been disastrous.

There are 527 million women workers in accommodation and food services, hospitality, real estate, manufacturing and trade – which have suffered the most from the crisis. 

Everywhere in the world, women bear the brunt of the pandemic with insufficient recognition, wages, job opportunities, labour and social protection – as well as access to decision-making. 

None of this is surprising – we all know the numbers. 

Globally, women occupy less than a third of managerial positions. 

In 2018, female employers across the world accounted for only 1.7% of total female employment compared to 4% among men. Africa leads by example with 38% of women in executive positions – whereas there are only 11% in the Arab region. 

In 2020, the number of women running the largest corporations in the USA hit a new high: 37 of the companies in Fortune 500 are led by female CEOs. Nevertheless, the larger the company, the less likely the CEO is to be a woman. 

Numerous factors are to blame – among them negative gender norms and stereotypes. 

We tend to associate decision-making and breadwinners with men and caring and domestic roles with women. 

Last November, the UN estimated that the pandemic would disrupt efforts to end child marriage, potentially resulting in an additional 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 that could have been averted.  

This month, the Crime Commissioner for England’s second largest police force warned that we are facing a ticking time bomb, I quote “as children out of school, particularly young boys, are looking for places where they can belong, places they can identify … and they can identify through violence, sadly.”  

Practically everywhere you look, whoever you look, at you see devastating impacts with long-term implications for young people, and for society more generally. 

My aim is not to catalogue these impacts and implications, but to outline how, at UNESCO, we are integrating youth and gender considerations into our work, in the hope that our experience may be useful for the OSCE in crafting its own approach.  
Your participating States have already declared their commitment to gender equality in the 1999 Charter for European Security, and in the 2004 OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality and related decisions.  

UNESCO’s Member States designated gender equality as one of two global priorities in 2008, and it now runs across our programming in every sector. I argue for a systemic approach and methodology, since gender has links to just about every domain, from who has access to education to who is likely to suffer most from climate change.  

The best metaphor is an ecosystem, where people and contexts interact to change each other. Young people are a priority target group for UNESCO and our work is guided by an Organization-wide Operational Strategy on Youth, and is also in line with the UN Youth Strategy.  In this framework, our approaches and programmes contribute to shaping an enabling ecosystem for meaningful, effective and sustainable youth engagement.  

Our gender and youth programmes, excellent though they may be, will fail if they operate in silos, separate from each other.  In addition, they need to take into consideration the socio-economic and contextual dimensions. In other words, while challenges facing youth and women might be common across countries and regions, our responses both in terms of policies and programmes, should be informed by context. This is especially true now in the context of the pandemic, and its multifaceted impact on societies across the globe. 

So how do the two priorities come together in our work? In our activities targeting young people, the Organization places special emphasis on the needs, expectations and aspirations of girls and women in disadvantaged positions. It also develops the capacities of men and boys to become strong gender equality advocates. 

In practical terms, our approach is fourfold. 

First, we ensure the equal participation of young women and men in all our youth-focused activities. 

Second, we promote gender equality in and through education where we focus on improving data, policies, legislation,  
and teaching and learning practices. 

Third, we integrate gender equality principles and dimensions  
in all our youth policy work and youth-relevant capacity-strengthening tools. For instance, in Lebanon, a regional training cycle on “Arab youth advocating for gender equality and women rights” involved representatives of Arab and European youth organizations. A toolkit for socially inclusive and gender-equal youth policy development has also been developed in Asia and the Pacific.  

Fourth, we develop and implement gender-responsive or gender-transformative initiatives across our fields of competence, that place young people at the core. For example, the global YouthMobile Initiative has helped thousands of young women and girls develop digital skills in programming and mobile application development. Did you know that women only make up 35% of STEM students in higher education, barely 3% of ICT students, 22% of AI professionals, and 14% of AI paper authors? There is an urgent need to close this gap, and we work to ensure that women will not be absent from future digital conversations. Secondary school students are being mentored under a programme on unlocking the Potential of Girls in STEM. Fellowships are being awarded to Women in Science for the Developing World PhD students, particularly from scientifically lagging countries.  

The overarching principle is to partner with young people, not pretend that we or any other organization can empower them. They must do that themselves, but we can help. This is particularly important if we speak of the nexus between youth and gender on the one hand, and comprehensive security on the other.  I’d like to illustrate this with examples from a subject close to our joint preoccupations – peace.  

In the project “Strengthening capacities of institutional actors, women, youth groups and local communities on peacebuilding for inclusive elections and social cohesion in Cameroon”, young women and men were trained around five modules including “Women and Youth in Conflict and Peacebuilding”.  

In Panama, a “Diplohack” addressed the prevention of violence against women.  

As part of the UNESCO-UNOCT project ‘Prevention of the Violent Extremism in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia’, a series of gender-specific activities were implemented, including trainings on media and information literacy for young journalists and youth organizations on gender-sensitive reporting, the use of gender-inclusive language, gendered issues such as online harassment, hate speech and child marriage, as well as the elimination of harmful stereotypes. 

Negative stereotypes destroy women’s and girls’ self-esteem, confidence and leadership skills. They create unattainable and dangerous standards for all of us, and if we do not annihilate them, there will be no sustainable progress or change. 

That is why UNESCO is developing a Global Flagship against Gender Stereotypes, which aims to prevent violence and discrimination against women and girls by tackling the prejudices, biases and stereotypes at their roots. Within this Flagship, UNESCO will launch a global network of “role models” to fight against gender stereotypes at our Global Forum against Racism on 22 March, as part of our Roadmap to fight racism and discrimination. 

We are also upscaling the scope of our Men 4 Gender Equality Initiative that seeks to foster positive redefinitions of gender norms and engages men and boys as proactive agents of change.  

Finally, we are the custodian of UNESCO’s work for antiracism and antidiscrimination, sport as a catalyst for women’s empowerment, and artificial intelligence and bioethics.  

Therefore, we recently drafted a Recommendation on the Ethics of AI that is shaping up to be a truly transformative normative instrument for promoting gender bias-free artificial intelligence and gender equality in digital technologies. 

We will also establish a Global Observatory for Women, Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sports in Switzerland to foster the empowerment and leadership of women and girls, not only in sports but through sports as well.  

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the OSCE on this initiative, and assure you of UNESCO’s continuing support in your efforts to, as you put it so clearly, advance gender equality and the meaningful participation of youth in a synergetic way to build peace. 

What can governments, scientists and industry do to better prepare for and respond to future shocks? – Series For Thought – British Science Association

Contrary to what you might think, policymakers love science.  

The problem is, they love nineteenth century science, where systems are closed and linear, and actions produce predictable reactions.  

The traditional school of economic thought, for example, essentially sees the economy as a totally understandable machine, almost always operating at optimal speed, churning out outputs in a predictable way. Occasionally, the machine is knocked off balance, or out of equilibrium, by a shock from outside, so you pull some policy levers and get it back on track. 

But the economy isn’t a self-stabilising machine. It is a complex, adaptive system, with massive interdependencies among its parts and the potential for highly non-linear outcomes. It generates shocks from within. In such a system, it is not possible to simply scale up from lower to higher levels, as economics tries to do by extrapolating system behaviour from that of a representative agent. 

Moreover, it is not a closed system. It interacts with other human systems and the environment, changing them and being changed by them constantly. 

The 2008 crisis taught us a number of harsh lessons about how human and non-human systems interact. Asymmetry for instance.  

A small cause – poor people unable to pay their mortgages – can have a huge effect when it is transmitted and amplified through interconnections.  

When trying to free the financial system from constraints, we could have learned from physics first that when you try to optimise a complex system, you can make it unstable; and second, something can be locally stable and globally unstable. 

The Covid pandemic provides further illustrations of the dual nature of interconnectedness. It brings many benefits, but it also means that a shock to one system can quickly cascade through other systems, threatening them with collapse.  

Another characteristic that scientists seem to understand better than policymakers, or the general public, is tipping points. A system can decline slowly over a long period, giving the impression that there is plenty of time to deal with problems. Then the system collapses suddenly and catastrophically. 

If policymakers only learn one lesson from crises and systems science, it should be that there is a trade-off between efficiency and resilience.  Global value chains were extremely efficient until the pandemic struck. Pharmaceutical companies were focusing on products that promised higher profits than vaccines. Governments were trying to do more with less in health and social care. 

To prepare for future shocks, we must listen to the experts when they warn us about the threats. Before the Covid pandemic, we organised a conference at the OECD on averting systemic collapse.  

That conference highlighted how we ignored warnings about the financial crisis and were not listening to warnings about climate change and other possible planetary emergencies, including pandemics. 

We also must accept that risk management can only go so far. You cannot buy off all the risks. We need resilience too: the ability to anticipate, absorb, recover and adapt. 

We need to use systems thinking and anticipation to better understand the interactions, tipping points, feedback loops and multiple equilibria to which systems of all types are subject. We should work together to develop the analytical tools and techniques to simulate the dynamics of crises. 

For that, we need a range of sciences. The natural sciences of course, but the human and social sciences too.  

We also need insights from philosophy, history, culture and the arts if we are to truly grasp why humans behave the way they do.  We need to promote what we at UNESCO call futures literacy to understand this system of systems and shape its evolution in desirable ways.  

We have the intelligence and tools to do better than spending trillions after disaster strikes. Let’s use them! 

Roundtable on the Ethics of Genome Editing: Voices from Society

Welcome to the third edition of the series of Roundtables on Ethics of the Genome editing, voices of society.  

We are grateful and fortunate to be able to draw on such a distinguished panel with such a wide range of expertise in public engagement. Sonya is a TV producer, Kevin as a researcher actively seeking community consent, Tesi is a policy-maker, and Herve, our moderator,  and our Chair of the IBC, is a scientist and ethicist. 

I also want to recognize the support of the Japanese Government, Ambassador Oike and Mr Yoshiaki Ishida, Deputy Secretary-General of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, as well as an official of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan. Mr Ishida, you have the floor. 

In awarding the 2020 Nobel Prize for Chemistry to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, the Swedish Academy of Sciences congratulated them for discovering one of gene technology’s sharpest tools. 

Their discovery is already contributing to new cancer therapies and cures to genetic diseases. It is also being used to develop crops that withstand mould, pests and drought, contributing to fight hunger. But as the Nobel Committee also noticed, the “technology also raises serious ethical and societal issues. It is of utmost importance that the technology is carefully regulated and used in responsible manner.” 

UNESCO has been in harmony with this line of thought, and, through the work of its International Bioethics Committee, has been taking a leading role in promoting international dialogue on ethical issues.  

This work has achieved three standard-setting instruments in the field of bioethics: the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights in 1997; the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data in 2003, and the 2005 Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. It was not only standard-setting, but also institutional developments that followed through.  

We are now working on a draft Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, a technology that will play an increasingly important role in all the biological sciences in the years to come, as we saw recently with AI’s astonishing success in predicting protein folding and solving in a few weeks problems that we thought would take decades. 

In updating its reflection on the human genome and human rights in 2015, the IBC called for “a moratorium on genome engineering of the human germline, at least as long as the safety and efficacy of the procedures are not adequately proven as treatments”. At the time, 40 countries either discouraged or banned research on germline editing because of ethical and safety concerns. 

Since then, the calls have multiplied. Emmanuelle Charpentier herself was among the scientists who signed a letter in Nature in 2019 calling for a moratorium on clinical uses of human germline editing to allow time for discussions about the technical, scientific, medical, societal, ethical and moral issues that must be considered, and to provide time to establish an international framework. 

It is important to remember that most of the discussion is around germline techniques. In 2015, when scientists in the UK successfully used somatic gene therapy on a little girl called Layla to help her fight leukaemia, the reaction was cautiously favourable. 

But germline therapies change the DNA in reproductive cells and these changes are passed on to future generations. That worries many people – experts and non-experts alike. One of the false arguments against messenger RNA Covid vaccines is that they alter the DNA of recipients. 

We cannot simply dismiss mistaken views and hope they will go away. “Voices from society” must reach out to society and listen to people’s concerns. Today’s discussion about genome editing and public engagement is particularly important in the context of the pandemic.  

We can draw on the three pillars of UNESCO’s mission to advance the debate: education, science and culture. To promote ethical reflection, we are producing a series of short videos with the generous support of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, who also finance this series of roundtables. Three films have already been uploaded to UNESCO’s YouTube channel: “What is genome editing?”; “Questions on Medical Treatments and the Impact on Future Generations”; and “Impact of Genome Editing on Plants, Animals and Environment”. 

You can count on us to play our part, and we will continue to do so through the excellent scientific committees. But we know that we will not succeed without help, and therefore, I again thank Mr Ishida and give him the floor.   

Women in the era of the pandemic – Vardinoyannis Foundation, on the occasion of Women’s Day 2021

Dear fellow panelists, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

First of all, I would like to express how happy I am to be part of this important panel on this very important day for women around the world. I would also like to thank Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO, and the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation for putting together this virtual roundtable. 

In September 2019, the World Bank called gender-based violence (GBV) a global pandemic1, noting that “35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence; globally, 7% of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner; globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner; and 200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting”. 

The 2020 World Economic Forum Global Gender Rap report showed that in terms of economic participation, things are regressing. The gender gap would take 257 years to close at the rates seen before the pandemic, compared to 202 years in the 2019 report. 

Globally, only 55% of women aged 15-64 were engaged in the labour market as opposed to 78% of men. 

The pandemic has made the situation even worse.  

Before the crisis, women did an average of 75 per cent of total unpaid care work worldwide, including child care, care for the elderly and sick, cooking and cleaning. With home schooling, working from home and lockdowns, that burden has increased. 

Women are over-represented in both the frontline jobs in fighting Covid and the jobs most likely to be lost. They make up 70% of the global healthcare workforce, over two-thirds of workers at grocery checkouts, and the majority of service -staff and cleaners. Around 4.5 per cent of women’s jobs are at risk in the global pandemic, compared to 3.8 per cent of men’s employment. Figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that at the end of 2020, over 140,000 jobs were lost and every single one was a woman’s job. 

Just as a gender lens is critical in emergency preparedness plans, so too must gender be a central consideration in economic mitigation measures put in place to deal with the COVID pandemic. The past success of many cash transfer programmes – in terms of poverty reduction, improved maternal and child health outcomes, as well as the reduction of intimate partner violence (IPV) – has rested upon targeting women as recipients.  

In a recent review of cash transfer programmes, nearly three-quarters (73%) of studies found that they meaningfully reduced physical and/or sexual IPV.2 For countries to get the most out of cash transfer measures, including poverty mitigation and reductions in IPV, cash transfer programmes should target women. To date, it seems that this lesson has not universally been applied, with many new cash transfer programmes focused on loss of employment, and thus privileging men.   

There are also concerning signs that a majority of countries are not publicly reporting sex-disaggregated data on cash transfer beneficiaries, making it more difficult to track and evaluate.3 

Targeted funds are also needed to help girls go back to school. There is still a gender gap in education, and many girls risk losing half their lifetime’s schooling due to closures, judging by the experience of the Ebola epidemic. In fact, everywhere you look, more needs to be done, from closing the digital gender gap to providing finance for women’s enterprises to improving the remuneration and working conditions of “essential workers”. 

Systemic sexism has to be addressed, from the cradle to the grave. We have to fight the idea that it is “natural” for girls to do some things and be excluded from others. We have to insist that even so-called positive stereotypes are harmful: women are better carers means in practice women are unpaid carers.  

Changing mindsets, norms and cultural practices deeply rooted in centuries of oppression isn’t easy. Strong laws and progressive policies can help. We need to legislate equality and scrap laws that promote inequality. We need to bullet proof institutions against gender biases. We need to ensure that artificial intelligence and other new technologies are not amplifying these gaps and reinforcing stereotypes. We need to rebalance the distribution of unpaid work, via dual parental leave for example.  

We can break gender biases by affirmative action, quotas, targets. We can give practical help like that provided by a programme I launched in Mexico called “NinasSTEM pueden” to encourage girls to go into STEM studies and careers. I would be happy to help Greece with a similar initiative.  

Finally, we can also set an example. We will launch a Network of Role Models to break the mould and present inspiring women who prove that a girl’s dreams can become her reality.  

Thank you. 

Conversatorio virtual “Género y Ciencia: derribando barreras de cristal en tiempos de pandemia” 

Buenas tardes,  

Es un gran honor para mí inaugurar este acto organizado por FOLEC, CLASCO sobre Género y Ciencia: derribando barreras de cristal en tiempos de pandemia. 

El mes pasado celebramos el Día Internacional de la Mujer y la Niña en la Ciencia, y el próximo lunes 8 celebraremos el Día Internacional de la Mujer. El acto de hoy es la oportunidad perfecta para reiterar nuestro compromiso colectivo con la promoción del acceso y la participación plena e igualitaria de las mujeres y las niñas en el área de la ciencia.  

Nos encontramos en el segundo año de una pandemia mundial que ha puesto nuestros mundos patas arriba y ha afectado de una manera más desproporcionada a las mujeres y las niñas. 

Nuestra lección aprendida del año pasado es que COVID-19 perjudico más a las mujeres.  

Todos hemos visto cómo aumentaba la carga de trabajo doméstico y de cuidados mientras que atendían a sus hijos en las tareas escolares a través de internet y/o a sus familiares enfermos en casa -todo ello sin dejar de trabajar a tiempo completo. También hemos visto a las mujeres ocupándose de sus pacientes en los hospitales, ya que las mujeres constituyen el 70% de la mano de obra sanitaria. 

Desgraciadamente también hemos visto aumentar la violencia doméstica y el ciberacoso, mientras se reducía el acceso a la educación de las niñas y a la protección social de las mujeres.  

Un informe realizado por la Fundación Gates mostró que “los hombres eran citados entre 2,9 y 5,1 más veces que las mujeres” en las historias relacionadas con COVID-19. 

Esto se da, ya que las citas procedían en su mayoría de expertos y comentaristas masculinos, marginando las voces de las mujeres, que sólo representaban el 19% de los expertos. 

El impacto de la crisis sanitaria en las mujeres que se dedican a los sectores científicos no es diferente. 

Mientras que el 53% de los licenciados a nivel mundial son mujeres y el 43% de los doctores, sólo 28% de los investigadores científicos lo son. Esto tiene terribles consecuencias en términos de representación, liderazgo, reconocimiento y financiación.  

Afortunadamente no todo son malas noticias, en la región de América Latina y el Caribe, hay un 45,6% de mujeres en I+D , muy por delante de la media mundial, y de hecho Bolivia lidera con el ejemplo con un 62,1%. 

Sin embargo, todos hemos observado que la representación de las mujeres en los comités consultivos científicos internacionales y gubernamentales de COVID-19 era bajo. 

En el centro de esta cuestión están los prejuicios y estereotipos de género; y las consecuencias de la existencia en nuestras sociedades son múltiples. 

En 2021, todavía hay profesores y padres que creen que las matemáticas son intrínsecamente más fáciles para los chicos y que las chicas simplemente no están hechas para las STEM: desde un 6% hasta un 20% según un estudio reciente en América Latina y el Caribe. Si esto es así ¿cómo hacemos para que los jóvenes empiecen a  pensar de manera diferente? 

Los estereotipos de género perjudiciales están en todas partes y alimentan un círculo vicioso.  

Tenemos también que señalar que si las mujeres son pocas en STEM, es todo lo contrario en en el área humanidades y ciencias sociales. 

Sin embargo, incluso en los campos en los que predominan las mujeres, éstas siguen ganando menos que los hombres y tienen menos probabilidades de ocupar un puesto de manager 

Un estudio reciente de la Harvard Business School puso de manifiesto los efectos de la pandemia en las carreras de las mujeres, especialmente en las que tienen hijos pequeños.  

Con las guarderías cerradas, las científicas con niños pequeños y bebés tuvieron que reducir drásticamente su tiempo de investigación en un 44%, frente al 38% de todos los científicos, lo que indica claramente que los científicos varones no experimentaron un cambio tan brusco. 

Esto no es sorprendente cuando sabemos que las mujeres dedican sistemáticamente unas 2 horas diarias más al trabajo doméstico que los hombres.  

En el fondo del problema, los estereotipos de género y los prejuicios fuerzan a las niñas a funciones de cuidado en lugar de las de liderazgo y socavan su confianza en sus propias habilidades y capacidades.  

Si superan estos obstáculos, se encuentran con peldaños rotos, techos de cristal y opiniones adversas de hombres bien establecidos en posiciones de poder que prefieren contratar y promocionar a hombres jóvenes. 

Para hacer frente a las desigualdades de género, la UNESCO adoptó en 2017 una Recomendación sobre la Ciencia y los Investigadores Científicos para garantizar que se aliente a las mujeres y a las niñas a cursar estudios y carreras científicas, pero también que se adopten medidas efectivas y afirmativas para hacer frente a todos los prejuicios, los estereotipos perjudiciales y la discriminación laboral que impiden el éxito de las mujeres. 

Es fundamental que las condiciones de trabajo, la contratación, la promoción y la remuneración de todos los investigadores científicos sean equitativas, junto con permisos parentales equilibrados y garantizados para ambos padres.  

Por eso hemos lanzado recientemente una iniciativa contra los estereotipos de género para desafiar los prejuicios y las normas sociales perjudiciales, y fomentar el empoderamiento y el liderazgo de las niñas para que puedan alcanzar el mismo éxito que hasta ahora ha estado reservado solo a los hombres. 

Pronto estableceremos una red mundial de mujeres de renombre que han contribuido a hacer avanzar la agenda de la igualdad de género en todo el mundo. Junto con las generaciones más jóvenes, inspiraremos a las niñas y allanaremos el camino para un cambio transformador de género en todas las esferas de la sociedad. 

Espero que se unan a nosotros en este trabajo tan necesario y les deseo un excelente debate. 

Online roundtable discussion – For Thought programme – British Science Association

Last year, a health crisis turned into a major economic crisis and now a huge social crisis. This confirmed that social, economic and environmental systems are interlinked in ways that create feedbacks and tipping points.  

We knew a storm was brewing, but we were not prepared. If health systems had had adequate buffers and margins of manoeuvre, lockdowns would have been less draconian. Even some rich countries were not equipped to protect health workers, so imagine developing countries. This is not only about investment, but also the agility of health systems to deliver in the face of a shock. 

The social system was not prepared either. “How is life?” the last flagship I delivered at the OECD, identified that 38% of the population in the OECD countries were financially vulnerable, meaning they could not forgo their income beyond three months without falling into poverty. Elsewhere, large majorities of the population without social protection meant that support measures had to be massive.  

Inequalities of income and opportunities were growing too. Figures for the UK showed that loss of schooling due to closures could range from 0.5 months to two years depending on socio-economic status. In some countries, girls may never go back to school.  

Why were we so ill-prepared? First, we identified efficiency as the main goal of policy and markets, in line with neoliberal economics that did not contest whether this was always advisable. Just-in-time production, global value chains, reduced welfare benefits and stricter application, focused on this single indicator. The measure of progress was based on maximizing production and consumption, not on well-being.  

Three other elements were ignored. Resilience, which implies different ways of organizing and investing in public systems; equality, that may have avoided present levels of inequalities that have damaged trust in governments; and sustainability.  

COVID shows that we need to understand the trade-offs between policy choices, and the unintended consequences of our decisions.  

We need to upgrade our analytical models. Since the 2008 financial crisis, I have argued for a better approach to understanding the economy than neoclassical general equilibrium models with their rational, representative agents, linearity, and actions producing predictable reactions. 

The economy isn’t a self-stabilising machine. It is a complex, adaptive system, with massive interdependencies among its parts and the potential for highly non-linear outcomes. It generates shocks from within.  

Moreover, it is not a closed system. It interacts with other human systems and the environment, changing them – and being changed by them constantly. 

The pandemic showed how interconnectedness brings many benefits, but also means that a shock to one system can quickly cascade through other systems, threatening them with collapse.  

We have to accept that risk management can only go so far. You cannot buy off all the risks. We need resilience: the ability to anticipate, absorb, recover and adapt. 

Systems thinking and anticipation can help us understand interactions, tipping points, feedback loops and multiple equilibria, and to simulate the dynamics of crises. 

For that, we need a range of sciences. The natural sciences of course, but the human and social sciences too.  

We also need insights from philosophy, history, culture and the arts if we are to truly grasp why humans behave the way they do.  We must promote what we at Unesco call futures literacy to understand this system of systems and shape its evolution in desirable ways.  

We have the intelligence and tools to do better than spending trillions after disaster strikes. Let’s use them! 

Launch of the Artificial Intelligence Needs Assessment Survey in Africa

Everyone agrees that AI will bring major changes across a range of sectors in Africa as elsewhere, but there are optimists and pessimists. 

Claims that AI will boost economic prospects are doubted by Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development at the University of Oxford. He argues that AI jobs in Africa contain a relatively large share of workers performing routine tasks, which are easier to automate. The World Bank estimates that two thirds of all jobs in developing countries are ultimately susceptible to automation.  Second, the classical route to income growth in developing countries has been through a burgeoning manufacturing sector absorbing low-skilled labour, but with manufacturing increasingly automatable, this path looks ever-less reliable. For example, AI-enabled systems are leading to significant job losses in back-office administrative functions in banking, health, insurance and accounting.  
These roles have been outsourced to developing countries in recent years. 

On the other hand, for Youssef Travaly and Kevin Muvunyi, writing in the Brookings Foresight Africa report for 2020, AI presents countless avenues for both the public and private sectors to optimize solutions to the most crucial problems facing the continent today, especially for struggling industries. Health care is a particularly promising area, where AI solutions can help leverage scarce resources by speeding up initial processing, triage, diagnosis, and post-care follow up. AI-based pharmacogenomics, which analyzes the likely response of an individual to therapeutic drugs based on certain genetic markers, could build on the great genetic diversity found on the African continent, to the benefit of Africa and medical treatment on a global level. 

Optimists and pessimists agree that inadequate basic and digital infrastructure seriously erodes efforts to activate  
AI-powered solutions. Finance must be found to address the skills gap, and boost R&D, and just as important, bridge the gap between research institutions and the firms that could exploit their findings to bring products to market. 

Another area of agreement is the need for modern regulatory systems that address the innovative, international nature of the digital transition. If AI is left to develop without any guidance, many of the potential benefits will be lost to large sections of humanity, not just in Africa. But finding the correct approach to encourage innovation, while guarding against the negative consequences is difficult for such a pervasive, fast-developing domain. The pace of change of regulation is usually far slower than the pace of change of technology, so the foundations of any framework have to be both deep and adaptable. Ethics provides such a basis since it can draw on principles that have been debated, tested and accepted across so many different traditions and times. 

I believe our Recommendation on the Ethics of AI can help  
the various stakeholders to develop AI in the interest of all.  

I look forward to hearing how the survey findings will strengthen UNESCO’s support for knowledge exchange, standard-setting, policy dialogue, capacity-building, and network development for AI in Africa.   

Inauguración del Foro Intersectorial STEAM 2021

eñoras y señores,  

Es un gran honor para mí inaugurar este Foro Intersectorial sobre STEAM. 

Mañana celebraremos el Día Internacional de la Mujer y la Niña en la Ciencia.  

Este Día es una oportunidad para promover el acceso y la participación plena e igualitaria de las niñas en la ciencia. Este año, nuestro tema global es “Las mujeres científicas al frente de la lucha contra el COVID-19.” 

Hay mucho que decir sobre este tema.  

La pandemia del COVID-19 ha cambiado el juego, ya que el uso de las nuevas tecnologías, de los dispositivos digitales y del Internet aumentó de forma inconmensurable.  

Gracias a ellos encontramos nuevas e innovadoras formas de trabajar desde casa, de seguir recibiendo educación, de acceder a servicios esenciales como la entrega de alimentos y medicamentos a domicilio, e incluso de seguir conectados con nuestros seres queridos y comunidades a pesar de las medidas de distanciamiento social que pueden haber sido especialmente gravosas para nuestra salud mental. 

En la UNESCO, los recursos educativos de STEM se han transferidos a la red para facilitar el aprendizaje a distancia inclusivo de 1.370 millones de estudiantes educados en casa. 

Pero la brecha digital que sigue existiendo ha alejado a muchas mujeres y niñas. 

En 2020, 300 millones de mujeres menos que los hombres poseen un teléfono inteligente. Según ONU Mujeres, la brecha de género en el uso de Internet fue del 17% en 2019, hasta el 43% en los países menos desarrollados.  

Esto tiene consecuencias directas en la educación y las habilidades generales de las mujeres en STEM, especialmente en las TIC, y en su acceso y liderazgo en estos campos.  

Esto es muy alarmante cuando sabemos que las carreras STEM son los trabajos del futuro, que impulsan la innovación, el bienestar social y el crecimiento inclusivo, catalizadores en nuestro logro de los ODS – y que las jóvenes se mantienen al margen de ello. 

Un estudio de las Naciones Unidas realizado en más de una docena de países descubrió reveló que las mujeres tienen un 18% más de probabilidades de obtener un título STEM que los hombres, frente al 37% de los hombres, lo que significa menos de la mitad de las posibilidades de los hombres.  

La probabilidad de obtener un máster es aún peor: un 8% para las mujeres y un 18% para los hombres, y aún peor en el caso del doctorado: un 2% para las mujeres y un 6% para los hombres, lo que hoy representa apenas un tercio de las posibilidades de los hombres.  

Esto tiene terribles consecuencias en términos de representación, liderazgo, reconocimiento y financiación en STEAM.  

Una de las cifras más llamativas es la de las mujeres galardonadas con el Premio Nobel. Desde la creación del Premio en 1901, sólo el 5% de los ganadores del Premio Nobel han sido mujeres.  

Para remediar este titánico descuido, en 1998 se crearon los Premios Internacionales L’Oréal-UNESCO “Por las mujeres en la ciencia”, que recompensan cada año a mujeres científicas destacadas, tres de las cuales han recibido desde entonces un Premio Nobel. 

En el centro de este asunto está la cuestión de los prejuicios y estereotipos de género; y las consecuencias de su persistencia en nuestras sociedades son múltiples. 

En 2021, todavía hay profesores y padres que creen que las matemáticas son intrínsecamente más fáciles para los chicos y que las chicas simplemente no están hechas para las STEM: desde un 6% hasta un 20% según un estudio reciente en América Latina y el Caribe. Entonces, ¿cómo podrían las jóvenes pensar de manera diferente? 

El resultado es: El 75% de los mensajes de las redes sociales de matemáticas que se analizaron en este estudio fueron publicados por chicas.  

Un tercio de los mensajes de los estudiantes en las redes sociales sobre las mujeres y las niñas en STEM eran sexistas. 

Estos estereotipos de género están por todas partes y alimentan un círculo vicioso.  

Impiden el acceso de las mujeres y las niñas a STEAM, alimentando sus síndromes de impostura y obstaculizando su confianza en sí mismas.  

En general, las estadísticas son muy claras: las alas más nuevas de la tecnología, como la IA, tienen la menor representación de mujeres: cuanto más avando (y presumiblemente más orientado al futuro) es el campo, menos mujeres trabajan en él. 

Sólo el 22% de los profesionales de la IA a nivel mundial son mujeres, y éstas apenas representan el 13% de los autores de artículos sobre IA.  

Como consecuencia, la relativa ausencia de mujeres y niñas en estos campos conduce al desarrollo de programas y tecnologías sesgados que fomentan los estereotipos de género. 

Hay muchos ejemplos: desde el reconocimiento de la voz y del rostro que antes funcionaba mucho peor para las mujeres que para los hombres, y a veces sigue funcionando, porque los sistemas de IA no se desarrollan pensando en las mujeres como consumidoras, en los motores de búsqueda o los asistentes personales, lo que puede reproducir sesgos perjudiciales.  

No puedo dejar que señala también que la cuestión de los ciberataques y el acoso contra las mujeres y las niñas es otro ángulo problemático que aumentó durante el COVID-19, y que lleva a la autocensura de las mujeres y las niñas en línea. 

Pero juntos podemos construir un mundo digital inclusivo, transparente y responsable. 

En 2017, la UNESCO adoptó la Recomendación sobre la Ciencia y los Investigadores Científicos, para crear un futuro más brillante para las mujeres y las niñas en la ciencia y abordar los retrocesos estereotipos perjudiciales que obstaculizan el acceso de las mujeres a la educación y el empleo. 

Más recientemente, desarrollamos una Recomendación sobre la ética de la IA para dar forma a un instrumento normativo transformador del género para promover la inteligencia artificial sin prejuicios de género y la igualdad de género en las tecnologías digitales. 

Pronto se pondrá  en marcha un programa emblemático para el empoderamiento de las mujeres en y a través de la inteligencia artificial. 

También estableceremos una red mundial de modelos de conducta como parte de nuestro Programa insignia contra los estereotipos de género para movilizar significativamente a los jóvenes.  

En el centro de esta iniciativa está el conocimiento de que la representación importa enormemente. 

En 2015, el estudio Gender Bias Without Borders del Instituto Geena Davis mostró que solo el 12% de los personajes de la pantalla con un trabajo STEM identificable eran mujeres. 

Pero las chicas jóvenes necesitan modelos de conducta e imágenes de mujeres líderes de éxito en STEM para demostrarles que ellas también pueden ser excelentes científicas, liderar la innovación y realizar poderosos avances y descubrimientos. 

Me complace decir que estuve presente cuando lanzamos este Movimiento STEAM para la estrategia nacional de educación de México en diciembre pasado.  

Me siento orgullosa y feliz de estar aquí hoy de nuevo para renovar el compromiso de larga data de la UNESCO para el avance de la igualdad, la equidad y la paridad de género en todas las esferas de la vida y la sociedad, y especialmente en las ciencias y las artes.