16 Apr Where Are The Women in Stem?
Excerpt from article in Venture Capital for Africa, by hilda moraa morara on 1/23/ 2013
Full article at http://vc4africa.biz/blog/2013/01/23/where-are-the-women-in-stem
The clamor for innovation in the African society today is loud. In the era where there is a lot happening in ICT, innovation and entrepreneurship, why are there still very few women involved in these areas? Past research reports and workshops have openly addressed women participation issues and the need to build more capacity of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics); to give them a chance to contribute to the growth of the economy.
According to an ongoing study conducted by iHub Research on ICT Hubs, it’s evident that there are still very few women in co-working spaces such as ICT Hubs/Labs developing innovative ideas or working on challenging science related projects. Even if the women are there, they take up the non-STEM jobs such as: sales and marketing, receptionist or administrator, etc.
Women often tend to shy away:
Issues of creative meet ups, entrepreneurship and pursuing science related subjects’ women often tend to shy away. I remember when I was choosing the subject focus for my undergraduate, majority of my female peers chose humanities (Business Administration, Philosophy etc) as their first choice. On the other hand, I did not think twice about choosing Information Technology. My passion of ICT, science and entrepreneurship, formed the foundation reason in choosing Information Technology as my course. Although my peers did not ever discriminate against me because of the choice of course I took, I still felt out of place as in the beginning we often met to share our experiences. Whenever it was my turn to talk about the exciting things I encountered during the week; as soon as I started talking about this new programming language I learnt or showed them a system I developed, the look on their faces reflected me as a geek and weirdo.
Gender gap in STEM:
The gender gap is not only seen in the tech field but also in science related opportunities such as STEM careers, scholarships, events and competitions. I believe the answer to increasing the number of women in STEM, is young women need to first change their mindsets to believe that they can be the change makers when it comes to STEM, entrepreneurship and innovation. They should clear the theory that males are the key, default players in these fields. There is also need for role models to come out strongly to inspire and motivation the younger women.
Where to find the women:
We complain much that they are few women or as my title echoes ‘where are the women in STEM? ’. It’s time we stopped asking this question, minimize having debates to discuss gender gaps in STEM, and on social barriers that continue to block women’s participation and progress in STEM. Instead, we should be seeking to find the women who are already successful in changing Africa. I believe this is where WMIAfrica (Women who Mentor & Innovate in Africa), comes in to fill the gaps. WMIAfrica is a new online network that aims to combine sharing of successful innovative stories for women by women and facilitate mentoring for young women in STEM. The aim of the network is to create empowering stories, resources, and jobs by allowing successful women to share their experiences by inspiring and encouraging younger women to actively participate in STEM opportunities.