Minister Armonaitė: we want to have more women among talents

Date

2021 03 08

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Minister of the Economy and Innovation Aušrinė Armonaitė met with prominent Lithuanian women scientists and discussed possibilities of how to raise more talents capable of developing innovation in Lithuania and how to encourage girls to more actively choose studies and professions of natural and exact sciences.  

On International Women’s Day, 8 March, Minister Armonaitė remotely discussed with more than 50 women scientists in the fields of nature, technology, engineering sciences and mathematics, including internationally recognised neurobiologist Urtė Neniškytė, researcher of neurodegenerative diseases Rima Budvytytė and others.   

‘Lithuania lacks people who create innovation and every year higher education establishments receive fewer sudents who wish to study natural and exact sciences. Girls are particularly avoiding these studies. We are keen to see more women among talents, and we need to join forces to promote these studies, both at national level and through private initiatives. Women need to know that these study areas have excellent perspectives both in Lithuania and around the world’, – says Armonaitė.  

According to the Minister, the income of Lithuanian women working in the field of natural and exact sciences is almost a third lower than of their men counterparts. This is not just a women’s problem, it is a problem of the society as a whole, because the state of our economy depends on the involvement of women in these areas. With technology changing the needs of the labour market, a shortage of such specialists occurs in the country. This problem is being addressed by attracting potential professionals from abroad, by offering retraining programmes and raising salaries, but the signals sent by the labour market to school graduating students are hard to reach.  

The data show that the career prospects of natural sciences, information technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are not attractive for students in the country: Since 2015, the number of graduates who want to study in these fields has been decreasing, and education outcomes in these subjects are relatively weak. Girls are particularly avoiding natural sciences, five times fewer girls than boys study these subjects, and only every tenth girl seeking higher education gives priority to them.   

It was stated at the meeting that it was necessary to carry out a study to answer the question of the reasons behind the low interest of girls in STEM sciences. The discussion participants agreed that to change the situation in Lithuania, it would be necessary to promote these areas and form their good image in kindergartens and schools. There is therefore a need for changes in general education programmes; also, training of qualified STEM teachers is needed to enable young people to get to know  these disciplines better. According to the scientific community, women would also be encouraged to choose these professions through various mentoring programmes, stronger social protection, education on gender stereotypes and other tools.  

To increase the interest of young people in choosing STEM studies and professions, the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation has established a mechanism for targeted scholarships: since 2020, targeted promotional scholarships of EUR 200 have been awarded to students in informatics, mathematics and engineering in regions where a significant shortage of specialists in these fields exists. This promotional scholarship programme has contributed to a 40 % increase in the number of admissions to the STEM studies in 2020.