On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, IsDB President Dr. Bandar Hajjar discusses the impact of funding on access to STEM subjects for women and girls

By H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar

The Sustainable Development Goals have challenged governments, organisations and individuals to take significant steps towards tackling the global challenges we face.  

The failures of past techniques that resulted in short-term ineffective change in communities, shows that it is essential to employ innovation, new tools and transformative policies in order to effect positive change and sustainable development.

Today, on The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the world comes together to call for more support for women in science, and we are reminded of the limited access that women have to STEM subjects. We need a paradigm shift in development to keep our promise to the world to achieve the SDGs, and to reverse the woeful statistics around women and girls in science. 

Research shows that women are not only less likely to apply for funding for innovation, but, in many countries, they are also less likely to be awarded funding for research. With more women than ever before pursuing an education in STEM fields, it is crucial to offer the support they need to foster equality in the field.

I am proud to see the progress that the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has been able to aid so far in creating access and opportunities for women and girls in science. I applaud the efforts of the STI department in continually presenting opportunities for the Bank to offer support to scientists and innovators and implement our belief in the power of innovation to transform communities.

I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of IsDB to ensure that women and girls in our member countries and around the world are supported in their pursuit of higher education and practicing careers in STEM.

The existing funding models limit access to only a handful of teams and organisations. This is guaranteed to lead to a less inclusive world, and limits innovation, which needs risk capital to thrive.

As an industry, we need to resolve this and create universal access to risk capital which will enable the essential innovation necessary for the achievement of the Global Goals around equality.

Through our scholarships programmes, the US$ 500M Transform Fund, and the Engage platform, IsDB has helped students, scientists and innovators – including many women and girls - to access higher education opportunities, receive grant funding for concepts that benefit their communities, gain access to advice from women scientists and innovators, and create a community of peer-to-peer support and information.

Our latest call for innovation in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), further supports women and girls by urgently trying to find and reward solutions for strengthening national health systems in the area of breast and cervical cancer prevention. 

Societies around the world have sadly allowed decades of inequality, denying women and girls the opportunity to thrive and contribute to positive global impact. The time for change has come, and equality in funding may be at the very heart of restoring the balance.