A Scotland-based Engineer, Anuli Obiaga-Marshal, on Wednesday called on stakeholders to remove obstacles preventing girls from studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM, subjects in school.
Obiaga-Marshal, a Nigerian-born and a Co-founder of Yellow Rose, a Non-Governmental Organisation, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
Yellow Rose is an NGO, based in Lagos and dedicated to encouraging girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
She spoke in commemoration of the International Girls in ICT Day, celebrated around the world yearly on April 25.
The day is a global movement which aims at achieving gender equality and bridging the gender digital divide in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.
It inspires girls and young women to consider studies and careers in the ICT field and join the tech industry, as well as giving them the opportunities offered by ICTs.
The day is also to sensitise employers on the need to promote gender balance in the ICT sector at all levels of the profession and also to motivate millions of girls around the world, who are passionate about science and technology.
Obiaga-Marshal said: “the obstacles that prevent girls from choosing to study STEM include the stereotypes associated with ICT jobs which are seen to be jobs for men.
“A large number of women may not have the confidence to be in the minority and may therefore choose to study and work in areas that are seen to be friendlier to women.
“Lack of visible female role models in industry is also another reason. This makes it harder for many women to aspire when they have no one to inspire them.
“Another is the myth that STEM is difficult and that boys are better at STEM subjects. This is a myth not substantiated by data but it is strongly held by many and is passed on in the nurturing process.’’
According to her, we can overcome these obstacles by encouraging girls to embrace and pursue STEM subjects from young age.
The engineer urged women, who already took up careers in ICT to make themselves visible role models and share their stories, challenges, victories and future aspirations to encourage young girls.
She said doing so would give them the courage to dream and aspire to fulfil dreams of having careers in ICT or other STEM areas.
She also advised companies to be proactive in the pursuit of finding diverse talents which would help them increase competitiveness.
Obiaga-Marshal said research had shown that the most competitive companies were those that have good female gender representation in all levels of the organisation.
“When companies in Nigeria recognise this, they will engage in creating a pipeline of diverse talents from schools and will work closely with schools to encourage and support more females to consider studying STEM subjects.
“These are some of the steps that can be taken to enable young females to step out and take on the challenge of taking up careers in ICT,’’ she said.
Obiaga-Marshal urged girls never to relent to push themselves to be the best they could be, advising them to be really strategic and clear about what they wanted for their careers.
She advised girls to build a network of support that would include mentors and knowledge experts that they could learn from and consistently develop themselves in their knowledge areas through investing time.
Obiaga-Marshal said that impediments to closing the gaps were mainly cultural.
She stressed that people still believed STEM was a male domain and girls’ place was in the home looking after children and a man.
Obiaga-Marshal said the missing link had made women not to thrive because the environment was not favourable to them, especially when they go on to have families.
The engineer urged women to work harder, be confident and secure jobs in the ICT industry.