The gender gap in women’s participation and leadership in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) continues to hinder economic growth, competitiveness, and prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific. Increasing the participation of women and girls’ across all levels of STEM education and careers is critical to women’s economic empowerment. This was highlighted in 2014 by the APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard (‘the Dashboard’) which was welcomed by APEC Leaders as a tool for informing policy discussions and measuring progress in five priority areas. The areas, which were selected by APEC’s Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE), included ‘Innovation and technology’. Recognizing the cross-cutting nature of this area, this project is being proposed as a joint PPWE-PPSTI effort. The United States welcomes collaboration with complementary efforts on Women in STEM within the PPWE, PPSTI, ABAC, EWG and other fora.
In 2016, the United States launched a multi-faceted initiative to focus on reforming progress in this working area and bolster the regional STEM pipeline for women and girls. As a first step, the U.S. gathered information from a range of sources, including a survey of activities and priorities among each of the APEC economies. Based on the research, a Framework came to fruition which provides a context and structure for APEC to better focus on cross-cutting issues of women in STEM, looking at issues not only as pillars but also as to how they are interlinked. The study - APEC Women in STEM: A Framework for Dialogue, Learning and Action - presents the four pillars of the Framework: (1) Enabling Environment; (2) Education; (3) Employment; and (4) Entrepreneurship and synthesizes the promising work that is already taking place throughout APEC. In addition, the study also summarizes the challenges that constrain progress in each of the pillars and proposes a tangible set of policy recommendations as well as the next steps on how APEC economies can reduce the gender disparity. To further support this work, the U.S. implemented two capacity building workshops held on the margins of the APEC Women in Economy Forum in June 2016 and APEC Education Ministerial Meetings in October 2016. In November 2016, the Study was endorsed by the PPWE and was highlighted in the remarks of then-U.S. Secretary of State at the APEC Ministerial Meeting held in Lima, Peru.
The United States also demonstrated the real impact of STEM by organizing a two week STEM camp in Peru in July and August 2016 in partnership with private sector and NGOs. The camp gave 100 adolescent girls hands-on learning experiences, connected them with mentors, and helped empower them with the confidence and skills they need to consider higher education and pursue careers in STEM.
Looking ahead, in 2017, the U.S. plans to implement a 1-2 day capacity building workshop to continue to build out the strong network of actors in Women in STEM and support the framework for dialogue, learning, and action. The event will look to engage representatives from government ministries including those that focus on formal education and lifelong learning, science and technology, and/or women’s issues, as well as private sector and civil society organizations that are active in recruitment, retention and advancement in STEM careers to achieve the following:
· Provide a forum for the discussion of tangible ideas for implementation of the Study’s recommendations to strengthen the pipeline of girls and women into the STEM fields;
· Highlight best and emerging practices across the region across the four STEM framework pillars;
· Identify specific opportunities for action and public-private sector partnerships that can propel APEC forward in terms of supporting Women in STEM fields;
· Prioritize APEC’s actions moving forward on Women in STEM, including highlighting complementary and collaborative efforts by partner economies in APEC.
The U.S. will aim to hold the workshop on the margins of the Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI) meeting in May 2017.