Coffee and Robots – An introduction to RightsTech Women
World Meteorological Organization
Geneva, 4 April 2019
On 26 March 2019, RightsTech Women, which has as its mission to advance the human rights of women and girls in STEM, held two presentations at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to introduce its organization and activities & to exchange with WMO staff. WMO staff members, the EU representation to the UN, as well as representatives from permanent missions and NGOs in Geneva participated during the day.
The first part of each presentation included an introduction to RightsTech Women: its vision, mission, organization and practical work. The team presented how RTW makes a bridge between women in STEM initiatives & human rights. RTW explained its pillars of work, highlighting recent advocacy and training events. For example, RTW participated in a discussion at the UN Committee on Cultural, Economic and Social Rights on article 15 CESCR (discussing the ‘right to science’, where RTW advocated for increased inclusion of women and girls in STEM at all levels).
RTW provides human rights training to girls and women in STEM and, with partners, organizes robotics, programming and human rights workshops for girls. RTW described its research work and some key facts of concern on education and employment of women and girls in STEM. Also shared was RTW’s testimonials project, which features stories from women working in STEM, who serve as role models. RTW mentioned its partners to date, including Ville de Genève and others with whom RTW organized trainings for girls in Geneva in celebration of International Women’s Day. RightsTech Women currently receives support from Think Tank Hub and Foraus, housed in the WMO building. RTW is also a part of the PoppyStation network, and uses the educational robot, Poppy Ergo Jr. in its robotics trainings.
During the discussion, the RTW team exchanged with participants and learned from the stories shared. Issues raised and discussed included topics like the important role of parents in early encouragement of girls in science and what could be done to facilitate it. Also discussed was the inclusion of men in advocacy efforts; one participant stressed the need to bring men into the discussion, noting that, often, women were already convinced. As well, participants noted with concern the fact that in some countries, despite higher participation in tertiary STEM education, employment of women in STEM remained low and that many leave the field for other types of jobs during their careers. The utility of studying science was underlined, given that STEM students learn flexibility and skills in rational and logical thinking, useful in many professions.
Another participant questioned why numbers of women working in STEM were low even though there were already a certain number of initiatives to encourage women and girls in STEM. Participants discussed existing gender initiatives as well as the need to include better the voices of women and girls in STEM in relevant UN processes. RightsTech Women noted significant support from participants on its principal idea to bring STEM and human rights closer together, so that both STEM and human rights may benefit from each other.
Regarding its target groups, RightsTech women described its life-cycle approach, through which it targets female learners and professionals aged ten and older, with a focus on education and employment.
Finally, the audience had the opportunity to trying out some hands-on programming of the Poppy Ergo Jr robots that RighsTech Women is using in its Robots and Rights program for girls.