The International Day of Women and Girls in Science advocates for greater participation of women and girls in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and celebrates those trailblazing women who have made indelible contributions to scientific development.

Trinidad and Tobago has produced many female pioneers who have made and continue to make waves in the world of STEM. Camille Wardrop Alleyne, who is the first person of Caribbean descent—male or female—to hold a senior management position at NASA; Dr Shirin Haque, the first woman to head the Department of Physics at UWI St Augustine, Dr Judith Gobin, the first female Professor of Science at UWI St Augustine and Dolly Nicholas the first and only woman to receive a national award for a scientific invention, are but a few of those torchbearers who have illuminated the path for others to follow.

Girls at our tertiary institutions tend to outnumber and outperform the boys in every area of STEM, except engineering, in stark contrast to UN statistics which indicate that although women make up about 50% of the world’s population, they comprise less than 30% of scientific and technological researchers and are regularly excluded from science-related fields as a result of long-standing biases and harmful gender stereotypes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the important role of scientific and technological innovation in mitigating crises and providing viable solutions to pressing and complex challenges. Traditional ways of learning, working and doing business have been substituted or totally replaced by the use of technology as the need to keep safe is balanced with the need to keep nations and economies afloat. It would be prudent therefore to invest in this critical sector by encouraging the participation of women and girls, as greater diversity in STEM, results in a wider variety of expertise, opinions and talent that can influence and direct scientific innovation. For example, women have featured prominently in Covid-19 vaccine development and other global and national responses to the pandemic.

On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let us encourage our girls and women to pursue careers in STEM because the nation, and indeed the world, can only benefit from the addition of the female perspective.