Mentorship will provide a clear pathway to STEM careers for young girls

Despite various interventions in STEM, gender gaps in science and engineering still exist. [iStockphoto]

The need for the participation of women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) cannot be overemphasised. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are tools for economic development, both nationally and globally.

So, equipping women and girls with technical, analytical and scientific skills helps them to become more economically productive.

It also improves their quality of life, reduces inequities and helps in alleviating poverty which is in line with Sustainable Development Goal 1. Furthermore, STEM has the potential to enhance innovative entrepreneurial capacities and opportunities for young women who are agents of change.

Despite the various interventions in STEM by the government and the non-state actors in most developing countries, gender gaps in science and engineering still exist.

Few women enrol into STEM-related courses and even fewer complete their studies. Globally, only 35 per cent of STEM students in higher education are women. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports reveal that women are fairly well represented in health, agriculture and environmental management but are a few in other fields such as energy, engineering, information technology and computing.

The number of women learning university STEM degrees declines as they move through the educational ladder. These fields are important for the actualisation of the SDGs. Therefore, all women and girls in STEM were warmly celebrated during the 7th International Day of Women and Girls in STEM on February, 11, 2023.

Several researches have been conducted to establish why women are fewer than men in STEM related fields. The findings reveal that this is due to cultural factors, gender stereotyping, societal negative perceptions, parental attitudes, institutional factors, policies and lack of role modelling and mentorship, among many other challenges that girls face.

Some of the studies have recommended increased sensitisation on the importance of STEM to parents who to a large extent, influence their children's career choices and motivation. Other studies suggest that the government should come up with ways to reduce negative social perceptions and device strategies to increase female role models and mentorship, especially in rural areas.

In 2014, UNESCO STEM in collaboration with the Government of Kenya Mentorship Programme engaged high school girls to initiate a mentorship programme geared towards inspiring secondary school girls to embrace science subjects in order to enhance their participation in STEM courses and careers.

Kenyatta University Women's Economic Empowerment (KUWEE) hub researchers recently conducted a study that evaluated the mentorship programme designed to encourage female students to pursue STEM fields and to facilitate school-to-work transitions (SWT) for young women in high schools, with a view of establishing its impact on young women's SWT and employment.

The government is paying attention to STEM and therefore this is a good opportunity for girls to enrol.

Further, the CBC is promoting scientific and technical school at an early grade and it is hoped that more women and girls will be motivated to choose STEM-related careers to ensure that Kenya's vision of creating a globally competitive and prosperous country with a high-quality of life by 2030, is achieved.

The vision of transforming Kenya into a' newly-industrialising, middle-income country and provide a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment' can only be realised if many more students are encouraged to pursue STEM-related courses.