|By Stanley Muigai
IT Lead, FAWE
Innovate, demonstrate, elevate, advance was the theme for this year’s International Day for women and girls in Science. The theme, carefully thought, focused on the role of women and girls in Science as relates to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Globally, women are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues and, while they represent 33.3% of all researchers, only 12% of members of national science academies are women. In cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals (22%) is a woman. Despite a shortage of skills in most of the technological fields driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, women still account for only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics. Female researchers tend to have shorter, less well-paid careers. Their work is underrepresented in high-profile journals and they are often passed over for promotion.
The gender gap in Science continues to widen even in this day and age. Women founders of start-ups still struggle to access finance and, in large tech companies they remain underrepresented in both leadership and technical positions. They are also more likely than men to leave the tech field, often citing poor career prospects as a key motivation for their decision. As the impact of artificial intelligence on societal priorities continues to grow, the underrepresentation of women’s contribution to research and development means that their needs and perspectives are likely to be overlooked in the design of products that impact our daily lives, such as smartphone applications.
Shifting lenses to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), women still continue to take the back seats. According to Infuss Health, women are underrepresented in STEM, with an average of 1 to 4 when compared to men. Many factors contribute to this, such as stereotypes and educational differences. These barriers apply to all women but are significantly larger for women in Africa. Despite this, African women continue to push past the stigma and become seen in the field of STEM.
For 30 years, FAWE has been on the fore front in advocating for quality education and training for women and girls in Africa. Working hand in hand with like-minded organizations FAWE has been able to push for the increased uptake of STEM subjects in schools. These efforts have borne fruit because as a result, some of the beneficiaries have proceeded to take up and thrive in Science intense courses such as Medicine and Engineering at university level.
In conclusion, in order for more women to involve themselves in Science, the culture has to be inculcated early while they are still in school.
Photo credits: Freepik
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