November 18, 2016—A Nathan Associates study proposes a detailed framework and recommendations for strengthening educational opportunities for girls and young women in Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) and expanding opportunities for women as workers, entrepreneurs and leaders in STEM fields across the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
Since 2014, APEC economies have committed to championing key factors of women’s economic advancement as benchmarked by the Women and the Economy Dashboard. A project of APEC’s Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE), the Dashboard uses economic and social data to prioritize capacity-building opportunities across APEC. From among the key gaps identified by the Dashboard in 2015, the United States elected to focus efforts on disparities in women’s participation in STEM. Addressing conditions that hold back women’s participation in most STEM fields will contribute to sustained economic growth, competitiveness, innovation and prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific.
The study, APEC Women in STEM: A Framework for Dialogue, Learning and Action, is a cornerstone of APEC’s ongoing Women in STEM initiative and draws from a range of sources, including a survey of activities and priorities among each of the APEC economies. The four pillars of the framework—enabling environment, education, employment, and entrepreneurship—reflect the promising work that is already taking place throughout APEC as well as within government, academia, and the private sector. The framework further identifies areas where economies can learn from the practices undertaken by one another. Nathan developed the framework through its contract with USAID, the US-APEC Technical Assistance to Advance Regional Integration (US-ATAARI) activity.
The study’s recommendations include strategies and tangible activities to address both the reluctance of many women to pursue education in STEM fields and the “leaky pipeline” of qualified women in the sector. These recommendations begin with reform of legal and regulatory constraints on women’s full participation in the field, along with investment in increasing cultural awareness and reducing gender stereotypes. They extend to keeping high school girls interested and enrolled in math; helping young women choose and stay in STEM majors; and improving conditions for recruitment, retention and (re)entry of women in STEM jobs. The study also underscores opportunities to encourage and support women’s entrepreneurship in the STEM fields.
The PPWE endorsed the study in November 2016. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted APEC’s Women in STEM initiative in his remarks at APEC Economic Ministerial Meetings held in Lima on November 18.
Women in STEM joins a suite of initiatives developed by Nathan’s US-ATAARI program, including Healthy Women, Healthy Economies, WE-APEC.com (dedicated to women’s entrepreneurship), and APEC’s Women in Transportation Data Framework and Best Practices initiative. Each of these activities underscores the critical need and strategic value that commitments to women’s economic empowerment can bring to the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.