‘Why women must be encouraged to embrace STEM career’

THE importance of encouraging women to embrace Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) career has been stressed in order for them to be on the same page with their opposite gender.

Business Development Manager, MySkills4Afrika Programme at Microsoft, Wanjira Kamwere, noted that according to UNESCO only 35 percent of STEM students in higher education globally are women. This gaping gender gap is especially concerning when we consider that STEM careers are referred to as the jobs of the future.

UNESCO noted that a strong gender imbalance exists globally, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, in regard to women’s representation in STEM fields.

According to the United Nations Institute of Statistics (UIS) less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women. Numerous studies have found that women in STEM fields publish less, are paid less for their research and do not progress as far as men in their careers.

Kamwere posited that conscious and unconscious biases, social norms and cultural expectations frequently influence the type and quality of education girl learners receive and the choices offered to them.

She added that Only 26 per cent of Artificial Intelligence professionals globally are female, according to the 2020 World Economic Forum report on the Global Gender Gap, which also found that current trajectories mean sub-Saharan Africa will only close its gender gap in 95 years, another reason Microsoft is investing in women’s STEM development.

She stated further that:”It is vital that we engage with girls at primary and secondary school levels to raise the visibility of STEM subjects as a potential career trajectory. “One of such collaboration is the DigiGirlz programme, which inspires high school girls to pursue STEM subjects by providing them with the opportunity to interact with Microsoft employees and receive computer and technology training.

“Women need to be represented for many reasons. It is important to have diversity represented in STEM and not just for the sake of numbers. When women are pushed out of careers in STEM by systems of bias, this influences the products and services that STEM organisations create.

“Each year, Microsoft hosts DigiGirlz Day across the world, including in the Middle East and Africa. The one-or three-day events see students interact with Microsoft employees and managers to gain career guidance, information about technology and business roles.” She concluded.

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