GENDER FORUM: PARITY IN STEM
On March 30th 2016, Los in collaboration with the Heinrich Boell Foundation East and Horn of Africa held a gender forum. The forum was held at the Kenya National Theatre as from 4pm to 6pm on the theme “Getting to parity in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).”
The panelists of the forum were:
The outcome of the forum indicated that a lot still needs to be done in relation to the inclusion of women in STEM.
Mrs .Diana Ofwona, Regional Director UN women
Dr. Edwardina Otieno, Head of Biological Sciences National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation(NACOSTI)
Dr.Kevit Desai,Owner and managing director of Centurion Systems Ltd. and a member of IEEE Kenya
Dr. Monika MacDevette, Chief of the Scientific Assessment Branch (SAB) in the Division of Early Warning & Assessment (DEWA). UNEP representative
- Dr. June madete, Biomechanics engineer, researcher and senior lecturer at Kenyatta University
- Dr.Susan Musembi, Senior lecturer Kenyatta university department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology ( moderator of the forum).
Science and technology are an essential means for facilitating economic, social and cultural transformations at national and global levels. Success of national development policies often largely depend on the extent of integration of modern science and technology in their implementation. Globally Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are considered important drivers to spurring economic growth through creative and innovative solutions that drive industrialization and research towards solving our societal challenges for a productive society.
By 2030 we aim to be a society driven by ICT and to become industrialized therefore we need all hands on boards to realize this through capacity, innovation, creativity, skills and hence calls for diversity in thinking. Gender parity in science is thus not a matter of fairness but is believed to enhance the recruitment of the most talented irrespective of gender, tapping a particularly unexploited resource.
The global theme this year for UN women is pushing to parity (50-50) in all spheres. However, much work remains in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), where women remain significantly underrepresented despite significant progression made in other spheres. This attributed to educational constraints, cultural norms and gender prejudices/stereotyping influence opportunities and choices, severely reducing the number of women who enroll, complete studies and are employed in their field of expertise in STEM.
Importantly, therefore is the need to advocated and push for family, institutional and social support for girl child and women to pursue careers of their choice in STEM. This can be achieved through discussions on gender relations and social power by engaging the men to debunk the myths and perceptions on parity hence revert society’s attitudes and perceptions on women. Bottom line being that parity is about not disenfranchising anyone but helping everyone find a voice in society. We thus need strategies to unlearn this behavior/mindset in the education and work sector by looking at gender parity as a way to promote scientific and Technological excellence rather than just improving opportunities for women.
Key strategies to consider
1. Pushing for dialogue that in cooperate men into the discussion on gender parity in STEM. This aimed at shifting the mindsets of society towards women pursuing the STEM careers or courses.
2. Use of media to advocate for parity in STEM by showcasing stories of women who have made it in the STEM career and female students engaging in science related activities e.t.c . This aimed at encouraging women to engage in STEM activities and careers and debunk the myths and perceptions society has placed about them.
3. Awarding and honoring role model or a community champion in the grassroots who push and advocate for parity in STEM in their community. This will strengthen efforts in pushing for all to engage in STEM courses and careers especially the female who are normally perceived indifferently by the society when they engage in these STEM careers or courses.
4. Advocate for decentralization of National Science Commission for Technology and Innovation to grassroots in order to promote STEM related activities both within and outside regular school day i.e. encourage opening of local science centers
5. Need to do a cost analysis to show the effect of not adhering to gender parity in STEM on its effect on the economy matrix.
6. Dissemination and enforcing implementation of policies that address marginalization of women in STEM
7. Need to bring all stakeholders and actors in STEM field together to complement on another rather than having fragmented efforts and voices.
8. Curriculum development that emphasizes on practical expertise apart from knowledge acquisition in order to build self confidence among the students