WOMEN IN S.T.E.M. FIELDS
S.T.E.M is a field of study which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. With the increase in the development of technology, more and more jobs are requiring a S.T.E.M. background. Unfortunately S.T.E.M. is a largely male-dominated area across the world as young girls are not given enough encouragement to pursue these subjects. In order to close the gender gap, and advance the technological and scientific development of a country, it is essential that more women are educated in S.T.E.M subjects.
THE ADVANTAGES OF STUDYING S.T.E.M. SUBJECTS
When women are given the opportunity and encouragement to study S.T.E.M. subjects, there are a number of advantages. These are both for the woman as an individual, and for the whole community and country more generally. In terms of individual advantages, a recent S.T.E.M. report predicted that by 2020 80% of all future jobs will require a S.T.E.M education. Therefore, by not being exposed to S.T.E.M. subjects, women’s employment prospects massively decrease. This means it is harder for them to be economically independent and provide for their family. The same report also suggested that people in S.T.E.M. careers earn almost double than people in other non-S.T.E.M. careers.
As well as these individual advantages, there are advantages for a country and potentially for the world if women are given the chance to pursue S.T.E.M. careers. In 2014, in a Department of Higher Education and Training Government Gazette, it was stated that 8 out of the top 10 occupations where there is a skill scarcity in South Africa are S.T.E.M. related careers. If the talents and intelligence of women are utilized, there will be increased competency, knowledge and understanding in the S.T.E.M. field. Increased competency makes it easier to harness the full potential of scientific and technological research. This will provide countries with more tools to prevent, help and solve many problems in health, energy, and development.
Currently the S.T.E.M. field is extremely male-dominated world-wide, but particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Less than 10% of young women are interested in pursuing S.T.E.M. subjects. Of the global workforce in S.T.E.M. careers, only 14% is female. Of the South African workforce in S.T.E.M. careers, only 7% is female.
One of the main reasons for this is that young girls in school aren’t given as much encouragement to pursue S.T.E.M. subjects as boys. Historically science has been seen as a man’s field and unfortunately this attitude still remains meaning girls are less likely to study S.T.E.M. subjects. As a result, the UN has established an International Day (February 11th) to commemorate the role girls and women play in science and technology.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Courage and encouragement- Women and girls should be encouraged to be brave and ambitious so they can embark on careers in this field. The gender imbalance is being challenged by Ghana’s All Nations University College, Department of Biomedical Engineering. The Head of Department, Mr Archibald Ekow Danquah-Amoah acknowledged the lack of courage on the part of women to venture into the sciences and engineering but believes the trend is changing. He said; “In our department we have more women applying than men and currently women make up about 70% of the entire students in the department.”
Scholarships- Mr Danquah-Amoah added that girls should be awarded scholarships to pursue science education so as to encourage them to pursue STEM careers.
Events- The Ghana Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), an association founded in the United States to promote the engagement of students in engineering, has been organising events to draw the interest of students into the field.