The Philippines must address the big gap in the “leaking pipe” to ensure more women get involved in studying and pursuing a career in scientific disciplines, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) official said recently.
During the L’Oréal and Unesco For Women in Science program forum in Makati City recently, Unesco Director and Representative Prof. Shahbaz Khan said the “leaking pipe” refers to women’s participation in research, and the incessant gap between men and women in doctoral studies and research. In recent decades, women have made huge progress in higher education.
According to the 2015 Unesco Science Report, Khan said that in 2014 women made up a slightly larger share—53 percent—of graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degree.
However, he said the number decreased abruptly at PhD level. At the doctoral level, he said, the share of female graduates dropped to 44 percent (compared to 56-percent share of men), and a mere 28 percent of researchers are women.
“This illustrates that the high proportion of women in tertiary education is not automatically translating into a greater presence in science and research,” he told the BusinessMirror in a recent e-mail interview.
“This is relevant in the Philippines because it is important to point out that even though some of the ‘leaks’ are being fixed, there are still significant losses being recorded along the pipeline.”
It is critical that those leaks or barriers to women’s participation in science and technology be studied, Khan said.
As an example, in academic year 2015-2016 alone, Khan said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) reported that the total number of women who graduated with bachelor’s degree is 322,425.
However, the total number of female graduates in Master’s and PhD level were much lower, at 17,972 and 2,020, respectively.
Furthermore, he cited a CHED report that for academic year 2016-2017, women comprised only 43 percent of science, technology and mathematics (STEM) enrollments, which was lower than previous years and mostly in nonengineering or non-information technology fields.
He pointed out that enrollment in STEM disciplines are essential, as these are the disciplines that can boost research and development.
However, it should be noted that the number of researchers in the country are generally low.
According to the 2017 Global Innovation Index Report, the Philippines ranked 75th out of 127 countries in terms of the number of researchers per million population (full-time equivalence), as examined by Insead and World Intellectual Property Organization.
As of 2013, the country has a total of 36,517 R&D personnel, of which 26,495 are key researchers (scientific, technological and engineering personnel), and the rest are technicians and support personnel.
As a whole, there are only 270 researchers for every 1 million Filipinos, which fall short of the Unesco norm of 380 researchers per a million population, and the 1,020 researchers per million population average across developing economies of East Asia and the Pacific.
On gender gap, Khan said that the Philippines had a good standing as it ranked 10th in the 2017 index, putting the country on top of the rankings for East Asia and the Pacific .
The global gender gap is calculated through four indexes, and the education attainment index of the Philippines equals to one keeping the gap fully closed.
In terms of science, according to the 2015 Unesco Science Report, Khan said the Philippines’s share of female scientists is at 52 percent.
“This is quite high as, globally, women account for only 28 percent of the total number of persons employed in R&D. This includes both full-time and part-time,” he said.
However, the general scenario in Southeast Asia presents a contrasting picture. For instance, while both the Philippines and Thailand have a share of 52 percent of women scientists, Khan said Japan’s percentage is only at 14 percent, and Republic of Korea is at 18 percent.
He added Malaysia (48.8 percent) and Vietnam (41.7 percent) are close to achieving gender parity, but Indonesia and Singapore are still around the 30-percent mark.
Cambodia trails its neighbors at 20 percent.
In terms of the proportion of female tertiary graduates, Khan said the Philippines showed a high percentage of women in science, around 60 percent, along with Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Myanmar, while Cambodia is in a low of 10 percent.
Khan said women comprised the majority of graduates in health sciences, from 72 percent in the Philippines to 82 percent in Myanmar, with Vietnam being an exception at 42 percent.
“In general, women graduates in Southeast Asia are on a par with men in agriculture but are less present in engineering, Philippines [30 percent], Vietnam [31 percent], Malaysia [39 percent]. The exception is Myanmar with a 65 percent of share of female graduates in the field of engineering,” he added.
In general, Khan said the Philippine situation, especially in research, is not encouraging, as the number of researchers in the country are generally low.