Women in Science and Technology: What Does the Literature Say?

Feb 2014
Skill gaps are a key constraint to innovation, hindering productivity growth and economic development. In particular, shortages in the supply of trained professionals in disciplines related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may weaken the innovation potential of a society. A wide gender gap has persisted over the years at all levels of STEM disciplines throughout the world. Although the participation of women in higher education has increased, they are still underrepresented. Latin America is no exception. The untapped potential of fully trained and credentialed women represents an important lost opportunity not only for women themselves but also for society as a whole. Although there is growing recognition of the importance of the issue in developing countries, Latin America faces a lack of information that prevents researchers from deepening the understanding of this phenomenon and policymakers from designing effective interventions. This note aims to contribute to the academic and policy debate in the region by reviewing the main factors put forward in the literature to explain gender inequalities in recruitment, retention, and promotion in STEM disciplines and by providing evidence of the scope and results of policies directed to obtain a better gender balance in the sector.