The Center for Women in Science Engineering and Technology (WISET) held a “Gendered Innovation Forum” on March 26, 2014, at which a group of science attaches from embassies in Korea gathered with Korean experts to discuss the increasing importance of women in contemporary society and specifically their role in science and technology.
WISET’s Director Hyesook Lee, a woman who has been central to the advancement of women in science in Korea, opened the discussion with a call for a new paradigm for the role of women in science in Asia, noting that an increasing number of outstanding women are rising to the task, but that they lack a forum for discussion.
The guest speaker at the forum was Dr. Elizabeth Pollitzer, director of Portia, an NGO dedicated to promoting global collaboration between women. Dr. Pollitzer delivered a talk on “Gender equality in STEM” in which she stressed the need to place women at the center of the decision-making process regarding funding for research, and suggested that women can offer critical insights as to priorities and approaches in science. She described the recent “European Commission Horizon 2020 Report” in which the critical importance of gender was explicitly identified by a broad group of experts, many of whom had no original interest in gender issues.
One revolutionary aspect of the recent research led by Portia is the identification of distinct differences between men and women in terms of biomarkers for disorders such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. The failure to account for gender has put women at a major disadvantage, Dr. Pollizer argued. Only by including more women in research, and the process of setting priorities for research, can such issues be addressed. So also, in the case of crash safety for automobiles, the lack of accurate female mannequins in tests has meant that that women’s safely is not taken into account in car design. The mannequins simply do not represent a woman’s physiological structure.
The Gendered Innovation Forum serves as a platform to discuss critical issues related to gender and a soundboard for topics to be discussed at the “Gender Summit,” which will be held in Seoul in the Autumn of 2015. Dr. Pollitzer has played a leading role in organizing the Gender Summit, which has been held in Europe and the United States since 2011. The Seoul Gender Summit will be the first such event in Asia and suggests a new role that Korea is playing in women’s issues in global society.
The Gender Summit will be a chance to pursue more profound collaborations between women in China, Japan, Korea, and the rest of Asia, and identify promising new horizons for redefining the role of women in STEMM fields. Specifically, the Gender Summit will draft a “Road Map for Action” with concrete proposals and establish a “community of experts” who can drive the programs going forward. Moreover, the Gender Summit will be paralleled by sister summits in Europe, North America, Africa, and Latin America, offering greater possibilities for collaboration.
The forum was moderated by Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute, and represented a long-term cooperative effort between WISET and the Asia Institute to address women’s issues.