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Gender in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (GIST or Gender in STEM) is a three-year, CAD7.3 million IDRC investment to advance gender analysis and women’s leadership in STEM fields in the Global South.  

GIST funds researchers in the Global South and increases localized evidence on the key factors that constrain or support women scientists. The initiative also identifies innovative approaches to strengthen the measures of institutions of higher-education and others to be more inclusive of women and gender analysis in STEM. 

The challenge  

At IDRC, we believe that inclusivity contributes to innovation. We support a more inclusive approach to science, technology and innovation — one that not only integrates women as scientists and users of science, but that recognizes gender analysis as integral to high-quality research and innovation.  

Women represent only 30% of the world’s researchers, with even less representation in science leadership positions. In 2015, the Interacademy Partnership published the first comprehensive survey of science academies in its global network. Across the 69 national science academies for which data was available, women made up 10% or less of members in almost half of the countries. 

Although the systemic barriers to the participation of women scientists is increasingly being studied, such data and case studies have historically been based on countries in the Global North. 

The initiative and our approach

IDRC funded the Breaking Barriers projects in 2020 to address this knowledge gap. The cohort of 10 studies analyzed trends of gendered participation in Southern science systems and the embedded systemic and systematic inequities that prevent women from advancing in a range of fields and sectors in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. These studies generated evidence on the unique obstacles facing women and other marginalized groups in STEM in low-income countries.

Building on this pilot initiative, in 2021 funding was expanded for GIST.

GIST aims to:   

  • Increase understanding of the barriers that prevent women from progressing in STEM fields 

  • Provide evidence on which strategies are most effective to break down those barriers in low- and middle-income countries 

  • Improve women’s leadership in science 

  • Integrate gender analysis as a standard component of scientific research

By providing evidence on what works and grounded in the realities of women in low- and middle-income countries, we can create more equitable science systems that improve the lives of all. 


Gender in STEM Research Initiative: Project Descriptions

Gendering water and climate science research in South Asia

Advancing gender inclusion in the natural science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Haiti Cuba

Transforming Institutions to Advance women leaders in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (SISTARS): Lessons from Ghana and Kenya

Pathway to Change: Towards Gender Justice in STEM Research in Africa (GeJuSTA)

Strengthening gender inclusion in agricultural research for more conclusive results in West Africa

Latin American open data for gender-equality policies focusing on leadership in STEM

Breaking systemic barriers to women’s participation in science: Project Descriptions 

Constructing public policy for effective participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Bolivia

Removing barriers to recruiting, retaining and advancing women in science and technology fields for promoting green industries in Colombia

Supervision and Mentorship of Women in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Postgraduate Training Program in Sub-Saharan Africa

Bridging the Gender Equality Gap in Science at the Women's University in Africa

Eliminating Barriers to Women's Participation in Science - A Study of the African Research Universities Alliance

Women in engineering education and careers in Benin and Ghana

Technoscientific labour and gender equality in Argentina: comparing barriers and opportunities for women in the public and private sectors

Supporting Indigenous women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Peru

Breaking barriers to women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Ethiopia

Gender disparities, career choices, and wage dynamics in science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations in Brazil