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STEM: The need for a gender-responsive approach

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Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)/Taken on February 10, 2021– Pinetown resource centre’s Katherine Sahadeo, a project co-ordinator and Tebogo Qwabe, lab technician with CASME on the International day of women and girls in Science in Durban. Women and girls still struggle significantly to participate in science and technology industries, representing only 35 percent of STEM students today, the writer says.

By Clara Nwadinigwe

Science and technological advancements are important forces behind gender equality because they present novel chances for social and economic change. Nonetheless, women and girls still struggle significantly to participate in these areas, representing only 35 percent of STEM students today.

This percentage falls to barely 3 percent in information and technologies. Women are already trailing behind without equal representation in these industries that are rapidly evolving. The digital gender gap is also a major cause of inequality in a world that is becoming more and more electronic.

In the areas of technology and science, less than 30 percent of women hold leadership positions, and the lack of appreciation for their achievements limits how they can establish themselves in these fields. It begins in their formative years and is perpetuated by social stereotypes which are present in curriculum, textbooks, and instructional practices. The choices imposed upon girls shape their ambitions and careers as adults. Thus, for a sustainable and equitable future, inclusive and transformative technology as well as digital education are essential.

Young women who delve into STEM careers discover a field with a largely male-dominated culture. A cycle of inadequate representation is maintained because if you cannot see it, you cannot be it.

A paradigm shift is necessary to make progress for girls in science, as well as a dedication to long-term, sustainable programmes and projects that recognise and attempt to overcome systemic impediments. It must encompass educational reform, including the introduction of science and technology courses in primary schools, new curricula that encourage girls’ early scientific curiosity, and other related issues.

Both physically and digitally, women are frequently targets of harassment. A study reveals that 85 percent of women in 51 countries have seen some kind of internet violence. The people who develop technological solutions must consider these issues in all their facets if technology and innovation are to be allies. Even though data suggests that businesses will have to deal with instances of gender-based violence, the IT sector still lags behind in terms of gender equality measures.

Reducing these institutionalised biases and promoting the development of more efficient, secure, and inclusive solutions are both made possible by the inclusion of more women in the sector.

Women and girls are able to grow aware of their rights and civic responsibilities with the help of a gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology, and digital education. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda and addressing development and humanitarian issues are made possible by such advances in digital technology.

Globally, 3.7 billion people do not have access to the internet; half of them are women. Though the digital gender gap has been shrinking in some regions of the world, research indicates that it is worsening in Africa.

The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted that having access to technology is now a necessity rather than a luxury. Technology is therefore vital in this marathon effort to build the Continent we want. Even if innovation has the power to change lives, there are still many obstacles to equality. So, to end this inequity, we must promote fair access to inclusive technology and education.

Clara Nwadinigwe is an advocate for energy systems integration.

This article is exclusive to The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.