‘Missing Links: Gender Equity in S&T for Development’

Missing Links: Gender Equity in Science and Technology for Development is a 1995 report by the Gender Working Group of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology, one of the first projects of the Commission established in 1993, which features essays by multiple contributors that explore how science, technology, and gender affect basic human needs in rural areas.  In particular, contributors were asked to give examples where technical change had differentially affected the lives of women and men. (UNCSTD 1995)

The essays, which cover topics such as energy, food security, indigenous knowledge, and literacy, feature an extensive bibliography and appendix that reviews previous United Nations recommendations regarding science and technology.   The Gender Working Group built on the information and ideas presented in the essays to identify and develop policy proposals for national science and technology programs, with the goal of ensuring that women and men have equal access to and benefit equally from science and technology, encapsulated in Chapter 1.   These proposals were also provided as preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995. (UNCSTD 1995)

The contributions highlight that in “most rural areas of the developing world, science and technology have tended to benefit men more than women.”  The title of this collection is a reference to the “missing links” needed for addressing the primary cause of this disparity – “the dominance of men in the decision-making chain.” (Oldham, in UNCSTD 1995: Preface) 

There are many links in this chain: from the science and technology institutions that generate the technology, to the mediating institutions that transfer it, to the societal institutions that use it. However, there are missing links in that chain. These are the women scientists, entrepreneurs, and community leaders, who can best reflect the needs and aspirations of women. The sooner these missing links are in place, the sooner science and technology will serve all of society, and the stronger the chain will be. (Oldham, in UNCSTD 1995: Preface)

The final report of the Gender Working Group is presented (in a modified form) as Chapter 1. The original report was transmitted to the Second Session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development in May 1995, where all of its recommendations were endorsed and transmitted to the Economic and Social Council.

In the Preface, Geoffrey Oldham provides a background to how this project came about “evolving from an all-male Gender Working Group of eight international delegates to a dynamic 16-person team including eight expert women”, described as a “powerful, dynamic, learning process” for all those involved. See the IDRC website for more details of the story.



UNCSTD (1995) Missing Links: Gender Equity in Science and Technology for Development, Gender Working Group of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development. IDRC/ITDG Publishing/UNIFEM, 392 pp. Contents available online at: http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-9359-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

Krikos, L.A., Ingold, C., Loeb, C. (2004) Women’s Studies: A Recommended Bibliography, Libraries Unlimited, pp. 710-11

Oldham, G. (1995) ‘Preface’ to Missing Links:  Gender Equity in Science and Technology for Development. Online  at http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-29514-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html