The Nigeria first female engineer, Joanna Maduka, on Monday said enhancing the girls’ interest in engineering could drive more innovation and problem-solving skills.
Mrs Maduka, also the president, Nigerian Academy of Engineering, made the assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
She decried the low number of women in the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM, subjects,
The president of the academy also decried the few numbers of female role models working in engineering fields, just as some employers do not actively seek female candidates.
According to her, girls fear to study STEM subjects due to stereotypes about the engineering role or fears of not fitting in.
“Right now, we are nowhere in the global innovation index and the world is moving at a very high speed.
“Nigeria has the potential to be a global economic power, if we embrace and invest heavily in technology and innovation.
“Women’s voices are essential to the problem-solving and innovation that is at the heart of engineering.
“We need to do more, as both a society and an industry, to encourage girls to engage in Mathematics and Sciences in schools.
“We need to support women pursuing engineering degrees in the universities and provide them with opportunities to thrive in their workplaces.
“There is need to tap into this critical half of human talents pool,” she said.
Mrs Maduka said the society had been organising several initiatives and going to secondary schools to organise career talks and encourage girls to study STEM subjects.
She said the society needed to support government’s efforts to build a strong foundation for science, technology and innovation in the country.
“Though the trend is changing slowly, it was not easy, but with determination and hard work, I was able to do it. If I could do it, any other girl or woman can.
“The problem seems to be lack of exposure to prospective careers in STEM for girls. So, we will keep encouraging them.
“The emphasis for engineering should be centered around the social good of the practice, rather than pure academic inquiry. This socio-centric approach may draw more girls into the field.
“From my experiences and observations, I think the best way to ensure equivalent participation of female and male students in STEM degrees is to promote career discovery programmes for young female students.
“It will allow them to explore their potential, curiosity and passion for innovation,” Mrs Maduka said.