STEM and Gender Advancement (SAGA)

Improving Measurement and Policies for Gender Equality in STEM

The SAGA project aims to contribute to improving the situation of women and reducing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in all countries at all levels of education and research. To achieve these objectives, it determines, measures and assesses sex-disaggregated data, as well as supports the design and implementation of science, technology and innovation (STI) policy instruments that affect gender equality in STEM. Moreover, SAGA aims to analyse how policies affect the gender balance in STEM, undertake inventories of STI gender equality policies, develop new and better indicators to provide tools for evidence-based policy-making, build capacity in Member States for data collection on gender in STEM, and prepare methodological documents to support the collection of statistics.

SAGA will help to:

  • Build capacity for data collection on gender in STEM;
  • Improve tools to measure the status of women and girls in science;
  • Identify gaps in the policy mix and improve national STI policies related to gender, based on evidence; and
  • Increase the visibility, participation and respect of women in STEM.

STI plays a crucial role in meeting the internationally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. Unless addressed in time, women’s lack of participation in STEM fields might prevent many nations from reaching these goals. The SAGA project contributes to the promotion of girls and women by offering tools and technical assistance to countries to attract and retain them in STEM fields. This will support directly the achievement of SDGs, especially targets:

  • 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life,
  • 5.c: Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels, and
  • 9.5: Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending.
  • 17.18: by 2020, enhance capacity building support to developing countries, including for LDCs and SIDS, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.

By working towards these goals and harnessing women's full potential in STEM fields, countries will reach higher levels of development, increase their research output and build capacity, thereby reducing inequalities and knowledge gaps. This, in turn, will enable countries to achieve many other STI-based SDG targets.

In recent years, the number of women involved in STEM has significantly increased. However, despite these encouraging signs, women are still under-represented in science, as women account today for only about 30% of the world’s researchers and even for lower percentages at higher decision-making levels, according to recent figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

It is widely accepted that creating knowledge and understanding through science will allow us to find solutions to today’s acute economic, social and environmental challenges, in order to achieve sustainable development throughout the world. Science therefore cannot continue to deprive itself of the full scientific potential of over half of the planet’s population. Gender equality in STEM is a matter of principle, a basic human right; it should also be considered as crucial means to promote scientific and technological excellence.

The way in which data related to STEM are currently predominantly collected renders women and their concerns, needs and responsibilities relatively invisible, and the growing demand for cross-nationally comparable statistics on the representation of women in STEM is only slowly starting to be met. As a consequence, the lack of data and indicators, as well as of the availability of analytical studies, can obstruct the design, monitoring, and evaluation of policies aimed at successfully tackling gender inequality in STEM. There is a need for effective STI policies to be evidence-based and hence to be supported by relevant statistics and indicators through the development of new indicators and methods to collect and analyse sex-disaggregated data on women’s participation in STEM around the world. This will contribute to the elaboration and implementation of actions and programmes relevant to gender equality in STEM in schools, universities, research institutions, governments, and industries. In this context and given its mandate in science and its global priority on Gender Equality, UNESCO has a key role to play in taking up these issues and working to overcome gender disparities in access to, influence over, and use of STEM.


SAGA is a global UNESCO project supported by the Government of Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).