February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day is set to recognize the critical role that women and girls play in science and technology and highlight the achievement and challenges of women in STEM from around the world. The United Nations aims to inspire, empower and support the aspirations of young women as well as promote full and equal access to participation in science for women and girls on this day.
STEM contributes significantly to the economic, social, and environmental development of a country but is seemingly a male-dominated field and this perception may have discouraged many women from electing to follow it as a career path. From their infancy, many girls are confined by stereotypes; given fewer activities and toys that encourage an interest in Science, which is seemingly perceived as an interest solely for boys. Women are a minority in the world of science and technology; discourages many from seeking to study science-based subjects at higher levels. In the UK for example only 19% of students studying engineering or technology degrees were female, and according to the World Forum only 30% of the world’s researchers are women.
For women in Nigeria who are mostly encouraged to take subjects that might be considered easier, it is important to encourage young girls to consider a career in science. The number and percentage of women in STEM are increasing with each passing year, which shows that there is a growing interest in women participation in the tech field. According to the World Bank, the number of students pursuing careers in Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) fields indicates that 28% are women while 72% are men. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there is only 30% of women in the tech workforce. Numerous factors contribute to the low level of women participation in STEM fields, ranging from poverty to stereotypes, to discrimination in the workplace.
Organizations and individuals in Nigeria are creating opportunities for women to get involved in the study of STEM courses, and ultimately work to become experts in the field. In Nigeria, several initiatives help to educate women and girls in areas of STEM such as coding and programming. These organizations encourage women in tech to break down barriers and refuse to be limited by their gender.
Some examples include:
- GirlsCodeNigeria: Girls Coding is a Non-governmental organization that is passionate about the Girl child and their education. “We are passionate about increasing the number of females in STEM, training the girls in an underserved community, and improving the resourcefulness of young girls and women”
- Rising Tide Africa: RTA’s current portfolio companies reflect its key investment criteria which are to invest in Technology or Technology-enabled companies with growth potential. Rising Tide Africa prioritizes investments in early-stage Female founded, female-led. Research has also shown that women who start businesses tend to have smaller networks in comparison to their male counterparts as men have more social connections that enable them to access business opportunities, information, and contacts than women do. Women are disadvantaged from the start, having fewer professional connections, role models, and mentorship opportunities. which is why one of the pillars of Rising Tide Africa is to provide mentorship programs for young women and create opportunities to network in the ecosystem.
- TechHer Nigeria: TechHer Nigeria is a platform for women to learn Technology skills like cyber-security, coding, and web development. “TechHer is a platform set up to demystify technology and provide support, learning, and collaboration for women in an encouraging and conducive environment.”
With Nigeria’s drive to digital economy, the growth of women in STEM should be a deliberate effort; the outcome of this inclusive drive will impact the socio-economic development of the country.
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