Jul 3, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

A recent report from the World Economic Forum revealed troubling news: It will take 100 years to close the global gender gap. And while we often celebrated progress made, the research shows the gap may actually be widening. One area in particular where women lag behind men? STEM studies.

In the UK, for example, while women make up half of the workplace, they account for just 14.4 percent of STEM workers. While this matters from a human rights perspective, it also matters from an economic one: According to the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), increasing the number of women in STEM will boost the UK’s labor value by at least £2bn.

All of which begs the question: What can be done to spur STEM studies for girls? Read on for a roundup of six initiatives seen across the globe.

1. A Satellite Built by Girls in Kyrgyzstan

In an effort to put an end to discrimination against women in this Central Asian country, the Kloop Media Foundation has established a new school with the aim of creating the create the first Kyrgyz satellite -- built entirely by girls.

Dubbed the Kyrgyz Space Program, the initiative brings together girls and women to work together while designing and building the module under the guidance of NASA and the Indian Space Programme.

Have some cash to spare and want to use it to support this worthwhile project? Become a patron.

2. Ciência sem Fronteiras in Brazil

Established to boost science and engineering in Brazil, this government initiative, which translates to “Science without Borders,” sends students and researchers abroad to study STEM fields at some of the world’s best universities.

While not exclusive to women, this mobility program is heralded for its potential to revolutionize the country’s R&D system while simultaneously opening more doors to girls in STEM.

3. Indian Girls Code in India

Led by robotics education company Robotix Learning Solution, this free coding and robotics education system “helps girls learn to code and innovate by creating real-world applications for real-world problems.” Indian Girls Code is also focused on supporting underprivileged girls: Its inaugural program was held at an all-girls orphanage in Tricky.

4. 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures in the US

A free program of the New York Academy of Sciences, this groundbreaking initiative seeks to engage more young women in STEM studies and the pursuit of STEM careers through the development of 21st-century skills and one-to-one virtual mentoring from real scientists and engineers.

Says the website of the value of 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures’ networking component, “We believe that layered mentoring from peers and relatable role models will bring important future scientists, mathematicians, technologists, engineers, innovators, and leaders into in the career pipeline. We believe that you can’t be what you can’t see, and we want to show you a wide variety of the girls and women who are already leaders across the spectrum of STEM specialties!”

5. Destination Imagination in Singapore

According to the UNESCO Bangkok report, A Complex Formula: Girls and Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Asia, the continent’s women face unique challenges, including gender stereotypes, social anxiety, and lack of local female role models in the area of STEM.

In response, nonprofit educational organization Destination Imagination has stepped up to encourage more girls to apply their creativity to technical challenges. The goal? To inspire and equip students with the skills and confidence they need to assume roles as the next generation of innovators and leaders.

6. Tech Needs Girls in Ghana

The Soronko Foundation Tech Needs Girls “is a movement and a mentorship program to get more women and girls to create technology.” To date, the program has trained 4,500 girls by matching them with 200 computer scientist and engineer mentors and role models. In a country where many underprivileged girls are forced into early marriage, Tech Needs Girls also promotes university attendance as a realistic alternative.

In highlighting the great need for more women in tech by the year 2030,  Smithsonian Air and Space Museum director Ellen Stofan insists, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way we receive information, how we process it, how we work and what jobs we will do. It is happening at an unprecedented pace. Because of this, we simply cannot afford to have any less than our whole population engaged and contributing.” These six initiatives -- and many others all over the world -- are working hard to make sure this happens.

For news on the gender gap, check out "Is the Science Gender Gap More Like a Chasm?" and "Does Gender Equality Deter Women from STEM?"

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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