Advancing women in STEM in the Western Balkans

April 25, 2023


The capacity-building event for Women in STEM held in Ulcinj from May 17 to May 19, 2023, was a pivotal initiative aiming to address the pressing issues hindering gender equality within the STEM fields across the Western Balkans. Amidst societal norms and cultural practices that traditionally steer women away from pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), the event sought to challenge these barriers.

The gathering focused on empowering members of the Women in STEM network to recognize the significance of gender equality, identify existing gaps, and familiarize themselves with the current landscape of the Wester Balkans. It was a deliberate effort to equip women with the necessary skills and support to bridge the prevailing gender gap in STEM.

The event discussions shed light on how societal stereotypes lead to disparities in STEM education and careers. Despite women's equal performance in STEM subjects, statistics in higher education demonstrate a stark gender imbalance. Women who excel in STEM subjects at the high school level tend to veer towards non-STEM fields in university due to multifaceted obstacles such as limited role models, lack of mentorship, and workplace biases.

Recognizing the shifting landscape post-pandemic, where STEM job opportunities are on the rise, the event emphasized the need to provide adequate education and training support to women and girls aspiring to pursue STEM careers. The World Economic Forum's Jobs of the Future Report highlighted the increasing demand for STEM skills in areas like cloud computing, big data, and e-commerce.


In alignment with their broader efforts to address gender disparities, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) collaborated to craft a comprehensive framework for Women's Economic Empowerment in the Western Balkans. A pivotal aspect of this initiative was the establishment of the Women in STEM Network in the region, which took shape in April 2021. This network was a proactive response, aiming to challenge entrenched gender norms and facilitate the integration of modern societal demands and evolving job markets within the STEM landscape.

This strategic move set forth specific objectives outlined by the UNDP and RCC, focusing on promoting STEM education among girls, combating gender biases in recruitment and career advancements, nurturing an inclusive environment, and constructing an online platform to advocate for gender parity in STEM.


As part of the Women in STEM Network's mission, the strategic objectives were to enhance collaboration among regional initiatives, amplify the visibility of women role models in STEM, develop digital mediums showcasing success stories, and initiate mentorship programs catering to aspiring STEM professionals.

The 2023 capacity-building event held in Ulcinj was a significant milestone in the network's work plan. It represented a key endeavour in fulfilling the network's objectives by fostering discussions, knowledge-sharing, and skill-building sessions among women in STEM. The event served as a cohesive effort among participants who were already part of the established network, further solidifying their commitment to transforming the STEM landscape in the Western Balkans.


The training’s agenda included sessions on fundamental gender equality principles, discussions on existing knowledge gaps, and reflections on the intersection of women's rights and gender equality in STEM. Interactive group presentations and discussions furthered the dialogue, fostering a transgenerational network of empowered women committed to transforming STEM landscapes.

The event's conclusion emphasized the importance of continued collaboration among participants to strengthen the regional network of Women in STEM. UNDP Montenegro pledged ongoing support, encouraging partnerships and knowledge-sharing among STEM enthusiasts across the region.


In essence, the Ulcinj event served as a catalyst for change, uniting women in STEM from diverse backgrounds to collectively pave the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future in the Wester Balkans' STEM landscape.