Tackle gender bias in STEM to promote growth in Africa

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  • Few African women contributes to STEM when compared with men
  • African culture encourages stereotypes that limit the potential of women in STEM
  • An expert calls for African governments to monitor policies on gender issues

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[NAIROBI] Mainstreaming gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) could be significant for socioeconomic development in Africa, according to experts.
The experts who attended the 2nd International day for Women and Girls in Science meeting in Kenya last month (11 February) noted that discriminatory practices against women limits the ability of many developing countries to grow and to reduce poverty.
The meeting was organised by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) and African Women in Science and Engineering.

“There is a large gap in the contribution of women in STEM compared with the participation of men.”

Caroline Thoruwa, Kenyatta University


Roy Mugiira, director of technical services at NACOSTI, says that engendering STEM policy in African countries will create the enabling environment to promote the educational and professional success of all people irrespective of gender, race or ethnicity.
He explains that policies should be based on the guiding principles such as relevance, inclusiveness, synergy, ethical leadership and good governance.
Mugiira says African institutions must be held accountable and provide evidence that women and men receive equitable opportunities, resources and support.
Caroline Thoruwa, a lecturer at Kenyatta University in Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that equal participation will allow men and women to reach full intellectual potential, which will also enhance women’s contribution to economic development of the continent.
“But there is a large gap in the contribution of women in STEM compared with the participation of men, in precise at the more advanced career stages,” says Thoruwa, adding that fewer women get opportunities for graduate studies in STEM.
Amelia Omollo, project manager, Kenya Airways, concurs, saying that STEM plays a great role in raising productivity and competency levels for Africa’s socioeconomic development.
She adds that African culture favours males over females, which informs social roles and responsibilities of females, access to resource, political power, education and all sectors of human advancement.

Omollo explains that confident and single-minded women are stereotyped as socially unacceptable, which make women often stay within these socially defined roles and responsibilities.
Hendrina Doroba, executive director of Forum for African Women Educationalists, says that women and men have a role to develop their countries, and challenged African governments to make data available for creating, monitoring and evaluating long-term policies for solving gender inequality in STEM.
Doroba also encourages a holistic approach for collaborations among gender champions in sharing knowledge and experiences on gender issues in STEM that will be capable of influencing policy decisions in Africa.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.