STEM education is highly important to ensure sustainable and comprehensive social and economic development. As STEM careers are in high demand, the remuneration stemming from STEM employment is higher than other careers. Furthermore, digitalization and innovation provide a growing array of lucrative employment opportunities for STEM employees, creating an income gap between these sectors and the rest, making STEM careers even more lucrative. Considering the importance of STEM education and careers, diversity in these fields is of utmost importance. Furthermore, it can be argued that the under-representation of women in these sectors contributes to an increasing income gap, leading to overall higher disparities and slowing women’s social and economic empowerment. Gender stereotyping presents a serious obstacle to achieving real gender equality and feeds into gender discrimination (COE). Also, stereotyping is further fed by the underrepresentation of women in STEM. Considering that the latter is traditionally considered men-dominated, challenges for women in STEM become even harder, requiring both soft and hard measures, starting from the policy sphere.

This Policy Brief seeks to provide recommendations to key policy and decision-making actors in undertaking measures that facilitate the increase in the representation of Albanian women and girls in STEM. Also, it aims to contribute to the limited body of research on women participation and representation in STEM in Albania.

In Albania there is a need to clearly articulate the: importance of STEM education and careers for girls and women; need for more women in leading positions in STEM, both in academia and industry; need on awareness raising on the importance of STEM education and careers for Albanian girls and women. It is also important to introduce, incentivisation programs, insurance of employment after graduation, for girls in STEM programs that have the lowest level of participation in STEM. Further, institutions should introduce STEM Week in primary and secondary schools in the country, so children can learn more about STEM, experience STEM closer, and get to know scientists, especially women scientists.
Issues of representation need to be addressed in a collaborative and proactive way by by creating programs that aim to raise awareness on STEM, importance of STEM in societal development and gender equality; promote Albanian girls and women role models in STEM, as not only a means in fighting stereotypes, but also as a way to incentivise young women in identifying with science and future careers in STEM; and Include the International Day of Girls and Women in STEM in their plan of activities, and organize awareness raising events with schools, discussions at the political level.
Considering the rural urban divide and taking into account the concentration of resources and opportunities in central cities, it is advisable that the Ministry of Education and Sports, in collaboration with Regional Education Directorates, and the inclusion and support of municipalities should undertake awareness raising and promotional campaign on the importance of STEM education. A program of Local women in STEM champions should be implemented in all municipalities, as a soft way to fight biases and stereotypes.

To share the recommendations stemming from the policy brief SCiDEV and NAWSTEM brought together a diverse audience, with participants from academia, the private sector, CSOs and international organizations, all coming from STEM and non-STEM backgrounds. Dr. Enida Sheme, Head of Computer Engineering Department (Faculty of Information Technology, Polytechnic University of Tirana), and Ira Kurti, software developer at Lufthansa Industry Solutions, respectively shared their perspective on women in STEM in academia and the business sector. Discussion centred around the recommendations of the brief, and how it is very important to share and push findings towards policy institutions, as they have regulatory power to contribute do the improvement of representation of Albanian girls and women in STEM.

This policy brief is prepared by the Center Science and Innovation for Development (SCiDEV) and its flagship initiative, the Network of Albanian Women in STEM, with the with the partial support of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through the programme “Protection and Promotion for Women Rights” implemented by AWEN, and pro bono contribution of members of the Network of Albanian Women in STEM.

Read the policy brief ” Evidence for Advocacy: Closing STEM representation gap in Albania” here.

Access the policy brief presentation agenda here.