Speech by Minister of Education, Culture and Science Robbert Dijkgraaf at the G20-conference on Women's Empowerment

Speech by Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf (Education, Culture and Science) at the G20-conference on Women's Empowerment on 24 August 2022. Watch the speech on YouTube.

Your Excellencies, distinguished delegates and colleagues,

Let me start by thanking the Indonesian Presidency for placing Gender Equality at the heart of the G20 agenda.

In the aftermath of the pandemic - which has exacerbated existing inequalities– this is more important than ever.

Distinguished colleagues,

I speak to you today not only as a minister,
but also as a scientist.

The successes we have achieved in battling the pandemic have reaffirmed my trust in the power of science and knowledge.

This power is indispensable in addressing the greatest challenges of our time, such as pandemics, climate change and conflict.

Therefore, we simply cannot afford to squander it.

We cannot let real potential go to waste.

Sadly, that is exactly what is happening at present.

As when it comes to combatting today’s challenges,
the voices, experience and knowledge of women and girls all too often go unheard…

…as they are still underrepresented at the higher levels of science and private sector enterprises and in public decision-making at all levels…

This is something we simply cannot tolerate.

We need everyone’s contributions if we are to recover together and look to the future. 

A future in which Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – in short STEM- will become paramount.

Continued underrepresentation of girls and women in STEM, therefore means running the risk of widening gender gaps.

Which is already happening today.  

While the digitalisation of our professional and private lives has been rapidly accelerated by the pandemic, the digital gender divide has become ever more apparent. For example in Artificial Intelligence.

This is unacceptable and unnecessary.

Throughout my career in science, I have never been able to understand quite what is so ‘masculine’ about working in STEM. Women and girls just as well possess the competencies to flourish in these disciplines. And no girl should ever be led to believe otherwise.

Overcoming the gender stereotypes that discourage girls and women from choosing for or staying in STEM careers thus is crucial. This has been the focus of Dutch initiatives to enhance the influx and retention of girls and women in STEM education and jobs.

For example, the government has concluded a Technology Pact with school boards, the private sector, employers and employees, and local authorities that includes a focus on attracting more girls and women to STEM sectors.

As a Minister of Education, I believe that it all starts with quality and inclusive schooling. Yet, the foundation laid here must be supplemented with measures further down the road, as well as in the world of work outside academia.

Which is why, at the beginning of this year, a statutory diversity quota of at least 33% women and 33% men on the supervisory boards of listed companies was introduced. This will be followed by target figures in the semi-public and public sectors.

In this regard, I must commend G20 EMPOWER, which constitutes a unique alliance between the private and the public sector.

It is only through the engagement of all stakeholders, and the exchange of best practices, that we can truly make significant steps toward gender equality in all spheres and at all levels.

Dear colleagues,

Let us remember that crises do not solely bring setbacks. They also bring opportunities. Let us take this opportunity to build a better world for women and girls. And have their voices count in creating a sustainable and increasingly digital future, making use of their STEM and leadership skills.