Two new initiatives to support STEM careers for women

November 15, 2017
Chilufya MWEWA  PhD Student University of Cape Town Dept of Physics Cape Town South Africa

Women in the developing world continue to face obstacles that limit their ability to establish careers and become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). IDRC is pleased to announce two new initiatives designed to support women and enable their careers in science and research, from early-career through to positions of leadership.


Supporting women’s leadership in science, technology, and innovation through early-career fellowships

A new partnership with UNESCO’s Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) will broaden support for early career women scientists in the developing world by empowering them to become leaders in STEM fields and role models for the next generation of female scientists.

Jointly funded by IDRC and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, this CA$15 million fellowship program will support 140 doctoral and 60 early career women scientists in STEM in low and middle-income countries. A full suite of mechanisms will support women scientists throughout their careers, increase their influence as scientific leaders in their field or institution, and forge sustainable links with industry and the private sector. This collaboration with industry at the post-doctoral level is designed so that women’s innovative ideas and solutions can be converted into products that will contribute to the social and economic development of their countries.

By 2021, 60 women are expected to start and complete the Early Career Fellowships, which will provide support and training to set up laboratories and to head research teams, as well as transform their research ideas into marketable products. The first call for applications will be published in March 2018 and the first cohort of 20 fellows will be announced by October 2018.

Supporting Indigenous women in STEM careers in Mexico

IDRC will offer a CA$1.5 million grant to the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social (CIESAS) to fund up to 20 postdoctoral fellowships for Indigenous Mexican women pursuing studies in STEM. This grant delivers on a commitment made between IDRC and CONACyT (Mexico’s National Council for Science and Technology) during the 2016 Mexico state visit to Canada.

In recent years, there have been demonstrated improvements in Indigenous peoples’ participation in higher education, thanks in part to new scholarship programs by CONACyT and others. However, despite these gains, Indigenous peoples in Mexico — especially women — continue to face challenges in becoming STEM leaders. There are also few opportunities for them to apply their skills and experience to mentor younger Indigenous women and to benefit Indigenous communities.

Complementing funding from CONACyT, the grant will provide opportunities for these fellows to perform world-class research, benefit from professional development opportunities, engage with communities, and become role models for other young Indigenous women pursuing studies in STEM at the graduate and undergraduate levels in Mexico and Central America. CIESAS will also undertake original research to improve understanding of the challenges facing Indigenous women in Mexico and Central America.

Ultimately, these postdoctoral fellowships will enable Indigenous women researchers and students to launch their scientific careers and use their knowledge and skills in STEM disciplines to benefit local communities through innovation and training.