Women have long faced disproportionate barriers-of-entry into STEM fields. There are organizations in the western world providing support and resources, promoting women’s accomplishments, and even providing scholarships to help girls break into STEM fields, but what about less-developed areas of the world?
This year, Ada Lovelace Day – a celebration of women in STEM and their accomplishments – falls on the same day as International Day of the Girl Child, which aims to help progress girl’s issues worldwide to help them reach their full potential. Led by UN Women, one of their focuses for 2016 is child marriage in developing countries. Women in the western world face (among other things) gender-based discrimination which may prevent them from succeeding in a STEM field. On this interesting day of coincidence, it is worth reflecting on the barriers faced by women and girls in other parts of the world.
UN Women reports that one in three girls in developing countries are married before the age of 18. Besides the obvious human rights issues, the organization also reports that, “Child marriage usually means an end to girl’s education, vocation, and her right to make life choices.”
There is an interesting parallel that can be drawn between the life of Ada Lovelace and the focus of this year’s International Day of the Girl Child. At a time when girls in the western world were sometimes married young and women weren’t known for their accomplishments in math and science, Lovelace made a lasting contribution that is still admired today and has been the foundation of many women in STEM movements.
Lovelace’s mother made sure she got an education that her father despised (hooray for 19th Century feminism). She had already formed a clear identity of her own by the time she got married and was able to become the icon we so revere today. But what if she had been married young and had her education cut short? What advancements and contributions are we missing because one in three girls in developing countries are married before 18, losing their right to an education and a better life of their own making?
Do we need to tackle the issue of women in STEM at home first, so that the arena is open to all? Should we try to engage with and provide resources for women in developing countries through existing programs? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
A Note from the Author
Thank you for reading my first blog post! As a female technology blogger, I thought it would be awesome for my first post to be about women in STEM and Ada Lovelace Day! You can look forward to content relating to open source software and Linux in the next few days! Please feel free to engage with me on social media and let me know what you thought about my perspective or what kind of content you’d like to see!