I’VE been writing for some time about the less participation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and the barriers women face when pursuing STEM Careers.
City Education Centre has heeded the call and has started the stem club for girls as a pilot project and I’m privileged to have been given the opportunity to be their mentor to come up with projects that encourage girls to actively pursue STEM subjects in schools as well as encourage them to take up science-based careers in future.
The Headteacher Mr Peter Kafunda said “STEM is the most trending theme in this era and we don’t want to be left behind as a school, we want to train the girl-child to not only have interest in STEM but for them to be future innovators through projects that they will be doing in school that will inspire them to do greater exploits.
The current statistics of women in STEM are alarming and it is our duty to come up with solutions that will benefit the leaners and the nation at large.
He was speaking at Kalimba Farms last week where they held an event to encourage and motivate learners who will be sitting for national exams.
Mr Kafunda encouraged learners to take interest in STEM-related courses after secondary school especially girls.
“As a school we also hope this club will be spread to other schools countrywide so that we become part of the pioneers of this initiative”
Looking at the past years, a wide gender gap has existed at all levels of STEM disciplines not only in Zambia but throughout the world. In 2018, for the first time in 55 years, a woman won the Nobel Prize in physics – Professor Donna Strickland and it made news. Her win publicly highlighted that women are still under-represented in STEM.
The lack of women in STEM roles prevents other young women from entering the industry due to lack of inspiration, role models, or even a support system.
Studies have shown that women in the tech industry constitute only 28 percent of professionals in the sector worldwide, and just 30 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.
These UNESCO statistics show a huge gap between women and men in STEM. For example, only three percent of female students in higher education choose information and communication technologies (ICT) studies.
This gender difference is alarming, especially as STEM careers are often referred to as the jobs of the future, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development.
The (2016) United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Africa Human Development Report estimates that gender inequality is costing Sub-Saharan Africa on average US$95 billion a year which is the equivalent of six percent of the regio’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Africa is not achieving its full growth potential because women are not fully utilised.
Like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia is facing significant losses in productivity and economic growth due to gender inequality especially in the labour market.
This is because Zambian women are mainly engaged in unpaid, low productivity and income jobs. Females are outnumbered by men in terms of educational qualifications as they account for only 26 percent of the employed population with university degrees compared to males at 74 percent.
STEM girls club will provide an opportunity for girls to explore STEM careers through weekly, engaging and fun STEM club challenges.
City Education Centre STEM Club For Girls aims to produce the following outcomes: Improved female attitudes toward STEM fields and careers, build confidence in studying STEM subjects;
Increasing number of young women graduating from university with STEM degrees;
And increased number of female innovators tackling important challenges to improve socio-economic development in Zambia.
City Education Centre has so far introduced two clubs this year alone. The STEM club for girls and the boys to men club that was started last as the boys to men club focuses on issues that affect the boys, the club is meant to create responsible, resourceful citizens who will use the skills acquired to make a difference.
If the boys are taught to have skills and be responsible men, half of the gender-related problems would be solved because it’s a two way coin.
“Both boys and girls have issues, but boys seem to be the ones getting the raw deal, issues affecting boys are very serious but they have been neglected” Judith Kleinfeld
The club teaches boys about skill development, discussions about misuse of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, everyday problems and concerns such as rape, depressions, peer pressure, and helping young people make good decisions.
The future seems bright for the institution as they embark on these programmes.
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