One thing that stood out at the event celebrating the International Day for Women and Girls in Science at the United Nation Office at Nairobi is that girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are still undergoing the challenges that the older women in the field went through years ago.
The Executive director of Forum for African Women Educationalists Hendrina Doroba stated that she experienced isolation from both boys and girls when she was growing up and had to face various stereotypes because she was interested in mathematics.
Currently, girls are still facing stereotypes that they are not good enough to get into science and math courses. Here are the different ways you can encourage your daughter to get into and stay in STEM courses.
Expose girls to women in science
According to the regional director Microsoft 4Afrika Amrote Abdella, people cannot be what they cannot see. Therefore, it is important to expose girls to women in stem courses, who will act as role model to them. They will be able to see themselves represented in these sciences by watching the women in their daily activities in science and engineering.
Mentoring young girls in STEM
Besides representation, there is a need for women in science to mentor the girls interested in stem courses. To foster this, different organisations have set up mentorship programmes, including the Kenyatta University, which has an association of female students in science (KUFESST) and a mentorship programme by Dr Alix Dehayem Massop at University of Nairobi.
Create an Enabling Environment
Creating an enabling environment for girls to engage in science is vital. Ms Doroba says that equipping girls with skills and hands-on experience in STEM courses as well as giving them the chance to take advantage of the vacancies and projects available for them will spike and maintain their interest in the courses.
Deputy Director Morendat institute of oil and gas, Prof Catherine Jane Ngila stated that an enabling environment and exposure to opportunities in her field opened doors for her to apply for and subsequently win the AU Kwame Nkrumah Award in Research.
Improving STEM education policies
To get girls and women into STEM, there is the need for the government to create policies that take into consideration the special learning needs of individuals interested in STEM.
It also requires the collaboration of governmental and non-governmental organisations in the implementation of these policies to ensure a multi-thronged approach to the issue.
According to the UNESCO Regional Director Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, having policies is not everything and that there is need to deal with stereotypes and change mindsets.
“The process has to be collective. We have to engage parents. It is not only for the parents but of importance, we must engage men,” she says.
In conclusion, going beyond the simple conversation of women in science and being active in the efforts to engage more girls and women in STEM is vital.
The Director General at the UN, Sahle-Work Zewde says that there is an indication that there is a great consciousness that the discussion is changing and showing that women and girls can make a great difference if given an opportunity, especially in science.