55TH Commission on the Status of Women March 2011, New York City
Women and Work | Engineering a Path to Empowerment
Women and Work
The World Youth Alliance recognizes that all persons have an intrinsic dignity; it is this dignity that provides the basis for all human rights. We recognize that all persons are equal in dignity regardless of sex, race, culture or creed and this equality demands equal participation in the development process especially access to education and decent work. Equal access to education for women and girls, including science and technology education and skills training, is the only proper response to their dignity as persons.
Education, including science and technology, not only equips women with the tools they need to take part in decent work, but more importantly empowers them with the confidence to dream and to pursue their goals. The World Youth Alliance recognizes that in providing access to education, women and girls are enabled to exercise their freedom to choose their own vocation and future. We recognize the many gifts of women that empower them to participate in development in a multitude of ways, from the very heart of development in the primary care of children and the family, to successful careers in all areas of the workforce. Authentic equal opportunity for women should not force women to conform to one particular career path or model, but must recognize that care-giving and motherhood are not only career options, but have great worth and are essential for the development of society and culture.
We recognize that as women are empowered to make choices about their futures, there must be social frameworks that support these choices. The promotion of gender parity in the workforce must take into account the freedom of women to choose an alternative vocation. We must not only facilitate decent and equal career paths for women, but also respect their choice to act as mothers and family caregivers. It is important to work with women and men to develop suitable solutions for the care of children and to build social inclusion networks that enable women to use their skills and talents to contribute to society.
The World Youth Alliance recognizes the inherent dignity of all persons. We affirm that every person is free, possessing the power to choose to act in accordance with the reality of the dignity of all persons, and to freely determine their vocation and their future. Increasing access to education, including science and technology, and promoting equal opportunity in the labor force empowers women with the tools and the structures they require in order to choose the future that most corresponds with their goals and dreams.
Engineering a Path to Empowerment
We are told as young people of a prosperous nation that the need for responsible citizenship is more necessary today than ever before. We are exhorted that we can make a difference. We are given the charge to pursue our dreams and build a future of our own. And so the questions are raised in our minds, “How can I make a difference?” and “What must I do to achieve this goal?”
As a young girl, I was encouraged by my parents in my fascination and desire to study mathematics and science. I was taught that gaining knowledge through education would become the most valuable asset in allowing me to make a difference in the world. The trust my family gave me supported my decision to pursue an engineering degree at the university level. Learning the fundamentals of math and science and implementing analytical and critical thinking skills in technological applications allowed me to participate in a fast-paced culture of innovation and change. Numbered among a few women in a crowded thermodynamics lecture or being the only female on an engineering design team, I was empowered by having accomplished a success few others had achieved.
I was aware that most young women my age were discouraged by the lack of female students enrolled in the science and engineering departments. It was common to discuss amongst friends and classmates that a potential career in technology seemed counterintuitive for a woman to pursue if she wished to remain in the home as a full-time mother. I witnessed firsthand my own mother who chose to put educational and career goals aside to care for my siblings and me in the home. Although she was one of the first people to encourage me in my pursuit of being on the cutting edge of technology and gaining the education to establish a long-term and sustainable career, she showed me that my technological endeavors did not have to be the ultimate end to which I was headed.
The training I received as an engineer provided me the tools to think critically about my path to success and the freedom to choose the future I was building. I recognized that I was more than the sum of my education and had many gifts I was capable of using. My mother first showed me the example of using such gifts as my ability to teach, encourage and inspire. Access to education and opportunities for employment empowered me with a confidence to pursue dreams of my own. It is my hope that this future includes becoming a mother for my own children as mine was for me.
Amanda, 26, USA