Philanthropic Leaders Unite to Launch New $1 Million Fund to Close the Gender Gap in STEM

09 June 2022


The unrestricted funding will go towards innovative solutions that are increasing gender diversity and equity in schools in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

  • By 2030, some 880 million children will not be on track to develop the skills they need to succeed in the workforce (UNICEF Report 2020)
  • Increasing women’s participation in STEM careers has the power to close the gender pay gap and boost women’s cumulative earnings by $299 billion over the next ten years, expediting global economic development (UNICEF Report 2020)

A new STEM Fund has been launched, initiated by the Micron Foundation and facilitated and managed by AVPN, the world’s largest network of Social Investors in Asia. So far the fund has pooled [USD 1,000,000] in its first round, from philanthropic leaders Lenovo Foundation, XTX Markets and BHP. The STEM Fund will support solutions that are improving the STEM learning outcomes of girls below 18 years in five markets – India, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia. The pooled fund will provide unrestricted funding to the non-profit organizations working to increase access to STEM Learning opportunities for girls in these markets.

“Our collaborative philanthropy with AVPN and the other funders will help identify and support transformative solutions that enable girls to access STEM education,” said April Arnzen, Micron CPO and President of the Micron Foundation Board. “This will not only help them achieve their dream careers in tech, it will help drive more inclusive global innovation.”

Despite momentum in recent years to improve access and increase participation of females in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), there is still a lower representation of women than men in STEM fields, due to a myriad of social, cultural and psychological reasons. According to UNESCO, by 2030, up to 80 percent of jobs in South-East Asia will require basic digital literacy and applied Information and Communications Technology (ICT) skills. This will disproportionately affect female students if they lack equal access to STEM in school.

STEM knowledge and skills are crucial to address some of the biggest global challenges in areas like technology, climate change, health care and clean energy.  There is a growing recognition that skills developed through STEM Education acts as fuel in driving innovation, creativity and productivity across a number of industries. However, despite highly productive jobs and good employment opportunities, there is still a low proportion of girls pursuing and studying STEM. This low participation of girls and women in STEM is prevalent across different education levels. However, the gender gap in STEM does not start at the workforce or higher education, but at the early childhood education and secondary education stages. In countries where the gender gap is unfavourable to girls at the lower education levels, women tend to be underrepresented in STEM higher education and eventually in the STEM workforce.

The recently launched UNESCO report states that the gender gap favouring boys in certain subjects like mathematics, starts to gradually disappear at secondary level and, in some markets, girls are outperforming boys in math by significant margins. However, even with this advantage, we see girls are less likely to opt for scientific careers, indicating that socioeconomic barriers are still prevalent as obstacles in the uptake of STEM subjects for further education and career choices. Therefore, there is a need to support more interventions aimed at bridging gender gaps in STEM learning opportunities.

“Given that the digital divide has become more pronounced post-pandemic with women being one of the hardest hit groups, partnering with AVPN to double down on our digital inclusion efforts is a natural step for us.” said Calvin Crosslin, Chief Diversity Officer and President of the Lenovo Foundation. “By providing women and girls from disadvantaged groups with unfettered access to STEM education and equipping them with the requisite digital skills and knowledge, we hope to help them succeed in the workforce of the future and achieve a better sense of autonomy and quality of life.”

Applications to the STEM Fund will open in August 2022, and the Fund’s grantees will be selected through an online application process. Each application will be reviewed by a group of experts that are part of the AVPN Expert Collective – a group of social investment experts across diverse thematic and technical areas.

“An opportunity exists to expand the pipeline of STEM skills by increasing the participation of females in STEM topics at a secondary and tertiary level.” BHP’s Chief Commercial Officer, Vandita Pant, said. “At BHP, many of our 80,000 employees are STEM professionals and their innovative thinking and problem-solving skills have been fundamental to us achieving vast improvements in productivity. Research indicates that diversity of thought among STEM professionals leads to better outcomes, however, women remain under-represented in STEM education. BHP is committed to partnerships where we can enable the closing of the gender gap in STEM across Asia, and build a pipeline of future STEM talent,” Ms Pant added.

Social investors and policymakers are also invited to join the AVPN Global Conference in Bali 21 – 24 June to get insights into how the STEM Fund was catalyzed by the anchor partners of the fund, together with AVPN, and form other strategic partnerships. The output of this convening will then be added to the main agenda of the G20, making it a strategic opportunity for all social investors and impact funders to secure “a seat at the table”.

“Our vision for Gender at AVPN is to see a more equitable world for women and girls across Asia, and mobilizing unrestricted financial capital through this STEM Fund will no doubt play a role in actualising this vision,” says Patrica Mathias, Head – Gender platform. “However, while we are seeing more funding to close the SDG Gender gaps in Asia, we must also remain cognizant of the rich diversity and complexities of Asia, and ensure more stakeholders join us to catalyze their capital, technical assistance and policy influence — to truly see the systemic changes needed.”

Media Contacts

Jacqui Hocking
Communications Lead, AVPN
+65 8454 5945
[email protected]
Gaynor Reid
Press Relations, AVPN
+65 9108 3577
[email protected]

About AVPN

AVPN is the world’s largest network of Social Investors in Asia, with over 600 diverse members across 33 markets. Their mission is to increase the flow of financial, human, and intellectual capital towards closing SDG gaps in Asia. Through enabling collaborations between policy makers, family offices, foundations and the private sector; bringing to bear the field needs, knowledge, and policy environment; AVPN improves the effectiveness of capital deployed.

As organisers of the AVPN Global conference—the world’s largest networking event for Social Investors in Asia—their focus is to put Asian voices at the forefront of global discourse; with the output of the convening to be added to the main agenda of the upcoming G20. The event is also leveraged by the Social Investor ecosystem to form and announce new partnerships, innovate catalytic funding vehicles, and ultimately move more capital towards impact.

About the Micron Foundation

Since its founding in 1999, the Micron Foundation has contributed over $100 million through philanthropy and people to communities where our team members live and work. The Foundation and Micron’s corporate giving are driven by the Micron Gives organization with grants, programs and volunteer efforts focused on promoting science and engineering education and addressing basic human needs. To learn more, visit micron.com/foundation and follow the Foundation on Twitter @MicronGives.

About XTX Markets

XTX Markets is a leading algorithmic trading firm which partners with institutional clients, counterparties and trading venues globally to deliver liquidity in the equity, FX, fixed income and commodity markets. We seek to automate all aspects of our business while promoting fair and efficient financial markets. Our philanthropy programme has two main priorities: 1) STEM education and careers, 2) maximum impact giving. We donate globally, but with a particular focus in countries where we have offices (UK, US, France, India and Singapore). To learn more about XTX Markets, you can visit https://www.xtxmarkets.com/

About Lenovo Foundation

Lenovo Foundation is Lenovo’s charitable and philanthropic arm, working to strengthen and unite Lenovo’s global philanthropy and business purpose to provide smarter technology for all across all geos and business units. The Foundation invests in advancing STEM Education programs, increasing access to opportunity for diverse populations and empowering employees to improve the lives of global communities. To learn more about the Lenovo Foundation, you can visit https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/about/foundation

About BHP

BHP is a world-leading resources company. We extract and process minerals, oil and gas, with more than 72,000 employees and contractors, primarily in Australia and the Americas. Our products are sold worldwide, with sales and marketing led through Singapore and Houston, United States. Our global headquarters are in Melbourne, Australia.Our corporate purpose is to bring people and resources together to build a better world. To learn more about BHP, you can visit https://www.bhp.com/

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