A good number of studies have shown that the ratio of women in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) relative to men is very low.
Even with this underrepresentation of females in the field, many women continue to leave STEM jobs within the first 5-10 years and those who stay rarely move up the corporate ladder, the upper-level C-Suite positions.
In Nigeria, the gender disparity in the science and technology fields is widening.
The report has it that 90% of the jobs in the next 10 years will require technical knowledge and skills.
Going by this, the realisation that some women are leaving STEM jobs within the first few years bodes ill for the future of the country.
To unravel the factors responsible for this phenomenon in Nigeria, WillFran Consulting in partnership with the Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) carried out an extensive study.
In addition, the research aims to understand the perceptions and experiences of women in the STEM fields; find out the existing challenges they face and call for more advocacy in the implementation of solutions that will not only promote more female representation in the sector but stimulate more girls into studying, working and enjoying long careers in the field.
In a bid to carry out a thorough survey, 102 female respondents (85.85 are currently in STEM) were picked across the six geographical zones in Nigeria: North-West, North-East, North-Central, South-South, South-East and South-West.
Questionnaires were distributed across the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
The format for the questionnaire survey contains closed-ended questions and Likert-type questions to measure the challenges faced by women in STEM in Nigeria.
What the report reveals
Having explained that 83% of the respondents cited personal interest in STEM as the motive for starting a career in the field, the research divulged 3 key reasons Nigerian women are leaving the space and solutions to promoting female participation in the space.
The concept of glass ceiling refers to a systematic barrier that keeps women from moving to senior positions.
Moving up the corporate ladder is a major obstacle many women face. It is the reason why many women with technical appointments leave their current workplace.
In the survey, it is discovered that 54% of the women had experienced barriers to women gaining opportunities for career progression in the industry.
Also, due to gender inequality, there exist some biases towards women taking up higher positions compared to men.
This explains the underrepresentation of females in STEM as well as partly why some women left it despite their passion.
Closely connected to the stereotyping of females is gender discrimination. There is a popular, yet baseless notion that boys are better at science and mathematics than girls.
As a result of this erroneous belief, more than half of the respondents felt only 10% of women were represented in their recent company, indicating they believed women are scarcely represented.
This could be attributed to women -in science and technology fields- being seen as less competent than their male counterpart in the eyes of society.
From the survey, it is implied that a sizeable number of women noticed unfair treatment for being a woman in STEM and believe they face unnecessary prejudice in the workplace.
Difficulty in securing funding
One of the biggest hurdles yet to cross by women-owned-led startups is access to funding
To that effect, more than 52% of women believe that it is difficult for women to secure funding for startups
The way forward
From the foregoing, the report has revealed the existing realities of the challenges faced by women in STEM.
Thus, to increase the participation and representation of females in the field, some of the respondents commented,
“More can be done to increase the visibility and works of organizations that promote Girls in STEM.”
“Awareness should be increased and opportunities created for women and girls in higher institutions.”
“There should be mentorship and funding to encourage women in STEM in Nigeria.”
The comments above highlight the need to not only to ensure that women feel included and valued in STEM but are set onto paths to career progression.
Featured Image: awpnetwork
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