“To rise to the challenges of the 21st century, we need to harness our full potential. That requires dismantling gender stereotypes. On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let’s pledge to end the gender imbalance in science.”—UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Today (Tuesday, February 11), the world joins in celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science, an observance adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.
The celebration is led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)—a specialised agency of the UN based in Paris, France— and UN-Women, in collaboration with institutions and civil society partners that promote women and girls’ access to and participation in science.
A un.org article on today’s observance said that science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science, women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully.
The article attributed “long-standing biases and gender stereotypes” are “steering” girls and women away from science-related fields. At present, though less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women, female STEMpreneurs like Laura Mendoza, Maricel Saenz, Cecilia Retegui, Maria Paz Gillet, Mariana Costa and many more are bringing global attention to the value of women in entrepreneurship in Latin America, according to Crunchbase News, a digital publication covering the intersection of technology and money.
Meanwhile, in the Caribbean, five female mobile app developers—two each from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and one from Montserrat—took home the top prizes in the second PitchIT Caribbean Challenge, a tech entrepreneurship competition organised by the Entrepreneurship Program in the Caribbean (EPIC). It was held December 2–3, 2016 in Trinidad and Tobago.
A total of 25 tech entrepreneurs from 10 countries across the Caribbean participated that year compared to 2015, when only seven Caribbean countries participated.
The rise of women STEMpreneurs
Findings from a January 2020 study by WX Insights on ‘The Rise of Women STEMpreneurs’ in Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) highlighted87 per cent of female STEMpreneurs have the ambition to grow their business beyond their domestic market, mainly regionally. Their motivations ranged from personal challenge/passion (84 per cent); to solving urgent issues (61 per cent) and to commercialising a business idea (37 per cent).
Both women STEMpreneurs and investors participating in the study agreed that personal ambition and motivation are the most important factors contributing to success. The study identified 56 per cent had a personal ambition; 47 per cent attributed contacts/networking and 34 per cent simply had a good idea and a business plan.
With regard to the main challenges experienced, the study displayed challenges in fundraising are spread across three different stages of the capital-raising cycle: searching for capital (lack of appropriate network to access key investors/ lack of available capital); financial knowledge (lack information about investment instruments) and negotiating terms (mismatch in valuation expectations/unfavourable terms of the funding).
Family, partners and friends were the main sources of support when female STEMpreneurs start their businesses. 44 per cent sought funding mainly from their own savings/family and friends while 43 per cent received capital from angel investors, or governments. On the other hand, 54 per cent had received some type of financing while 67 per cent had the support of a mentor.
The study highlighted the anatomy of women STEMpreneurs in LAC: 72 per cent are under 40 years old; 77 per cent have a Bachelor’s degree or higher; 44 per cent married or living with a partner; 46 per cent have one or more dependents and 67 per cent have worked or studied outside their home country.
Other areas the study identified was that 81 per cent started their businesses in the past five years and 87 per cent ventured with co-founders. Top sectors were EdTech (15 per cent), FinTech (14 per cent) and HealthTech (10 per cent).
By Kaelanne Jordan