In 2014, the Leaders of APEC’s 21 member economies specifically recognized “the importance of data to measure progress in reducing barriers to women’s economic participation.” The Leaders welcomed the establishment of the APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard (the Dashboard), -as a tool for informing policy discussions. From this baseline, APEC economies can set goals for progress or reform, both within their own systems and as a region. After a detailed analysis of the data, APEC recognized several areas as regional areas of focus for capacity building, and look to APEC economies to champion programs in these target areas.
One of the core areas identified in the dashboard for capacity building is the need to increase women and girls’ access to and participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies and careers. Women represent 40 percent of the global labour force, they are often paid lower salaries than men in similar jobs and are concentrated in lower skill, lower wage jobs and industries, with significant gaps in higher value added jobs in the fields of STEM. STEM education and careers are critical in accessing higher value-added jobs in a number of regional areas including innovation, transportation, infrastructure, food security, energy, health, and resilience. In response to this need, the United States will lead a targeted capacity building program on STEM education and careers for women and girls. In an effort to build a regional talent pipeline for women in STEM careers, the U.S. will launch this multi-faceted effort that will include three main components to assist in addressing the STEM education and career gap for women and girls, which directly responds to priorities identified by the Dashboard.
First, in early 2016, the U.S. will undertake a regional study and stock take of where the APEC region stands on advancing women and girls participation and access to STEM education and careers. The study will: 1) highlight active initiatives and best practices in the APEC region to advance women and girls STEM education and careers; 2) identify gaps which currently exist in regional efforts on STEM education and careers; and 3) provide policy recommendations on how APEC economies can close the STEM gender gap.
Second, the U.S. will present preliminary results of the study during the APEC Women and the Economy Forum in June 2016, with a targeted completion date of August/September 2016. The U.S. will then hold a two-day regional workshop around August 2016 for APEC government officials and private sector representatives who are responsible for education, science, technology, and innovation policies and reforms to discuss outcomes, exchange best practices, and plan next steps.
Finally, the U.S. proposes to hold a pilot two-week STEM camp for adolescent girls that provides an opportunity for experts and private sector leaders to engage with an initial cohort of young women who aspire to be the next generation of STEM leaders. As Peru is the 2016 host, we will seek to hold the pilot camp in Peru, Chile, or Mexico for Spanish-speaking participants from those economies. While the camp would only be for a sub-set of APEC economies, regional best practices on curriculum, training, and engagement will be collected and packaged for the two-week camp in a toolkit, which ultimately could be piloted in other economies. The camp and the workshop will likely be held simultaneously to enable government officials and the young leaders to engage around lessons learned.