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First Lady Neo Masisi has implored a mind-set change in society towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects from the stereotypical believes that girls cannot cope with them and instead are the boy child’s preserve only.
Masisi said this during the L’Oréal Foundation UNESCO for Women in Science engagement session that was held at Chobe JSS in Kasane on Wednesday.
Through the engagement the 30 winners of the 14th L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Young Talents Sub Saharan Africa Awards interacted with students from Chobe JSS, in an effort to encourage science based career development.
Masisi said that gender disparity in STEM excludes a large proportion of girls and young women, who lack the opportunity to access employment in fields with relatively higher salaries. She stated that it is therefore imperative for Batswana to begin to understand the factors that limit women from entering these male dominated STEM territories, but more importantly to address them.
“The numbers tell a clear story that urgent action is required –fewer numbers of women and girls enroll for subjects relating to STEM compared to their male counterparts, equally it shows that professionals related to STEM subjects are dominated by men (70%) at the exclusion of women,” she said.
She said that there is a need to ensure that the learners appreciate from an early age that educational attainment is not dependent on whether you are a boy or girl and so goes with STEM subjects. She stressed the need for parents to motivate their girl child, so that they can believe in themselves and to tell them that they too can excel at STEM subjects.
Masisi added that it is important to expose learners to life skills from a young age, particularly the girl child who still suffers from prejudices and bias. She highlighted that these skills include self-awareness, self-belief, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, decision-making, creative thinking and collaboration. According to her, these skills could be acquired through participation in different roles, at home school and volunteering within the community.
L’Oreal CEO Alexandra Palt said that through the event they intended to show young women that science careers are possible, fulfilling and can contribute to the continent’s challenges and may bring extraordinary benefit to Africa and the World. She stated that it is important that women are involved in science careers so that they can also be able to solve problems facing the world through research and innovation.
L’Oréal Foundation supports and empowers women to shape their future and make a difference in society, focusing on three major areas: scientific research, inclusive beauty and climate action. Since 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science program has worked to empower more women scientists to overcome barriers to progression and participate in solving the great challenges of our time, for the benefit of all.
For 25 years, it has supported more than 4,100 women researchers from more than 110 countries, rewarding scientific excellence and inspiring younger generations of women to pursue science as a career.