Nigeria, US Collaborate to Boost Gender Equality in STEM Education

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Emma Okonji

The United States government has reiterated its commitment to boosting gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in Nigeria.

The United States Consul General in Nigeria, Mr. John Bray, restated the commitment of the US government for STEM education among girls and women in Nigeria, when he played host to the 16-member women delegation of senior tech executives and professionals who visited Nigeria recently from the Silicon Valley that promote STEM education and technology in the United States.

The 16-member women delegation from Silicon Valley in the United States, were on a mission to Nigeria to encourage women participation in STEM education and to bridge the digital divide that exits between male and female in the field of science and technology.

The delegation, which spent one week in Nigeria, mentoring their female counterparts in schools and in different women fora, represented organisations as diverse as Twitter, Linkendln, Netflix and Mozila. Among them were also representatives of Autodesk, WomenCollege Tech, Standfird Graduate School of Business, Juniper Networks, Fairrer Samani Group, Northgate Environmental Management, Jessuca Dickinson Goidman Consulting, and the Institute of International Education.

The American Consulate was pleased to sponsor the series of seminars and trainings by the leading women technology leaders from Nigeria and the United States that were actively advocating for women in STEM education.

Addressing the large gathering of women in one of the gatherings in Lagos during the one week visit, Bray said: “STEM education is the key foundation for any country’s economic success. But sadly, many young women who pursue studies in STEM at tertiary institutions share stories of being grossly outnumbered by men. In workplaces, women in STEM fields, face discriminatory practices and behaviour from colleagues and supervisors, including compensation at lower levels than male counterparts for their labour. They also generally lack opportunities for coaching, mentoring and growth compared to their male colleagues.”

According to Bray, “the blunt truth is that without women’s inclusive participation, any gains in economic growth and development, as well as advances in science and technology, will be lopsided and unsustainable. Therefore it is critical that women’s voices at all levels, find representation in collaborative solutions that will have the impact on them.

The US government, he added, is convinced that when barriers to women’s full participation in STEM fields are removed, women will do better, families will do better, countries will do better, and the world will do better. Whether at home or abroad, promoting women in STEM fields is top priority to the US government, Bray said.

Public Affairs Officer, United State Consulate General, Lagos, Nigeria, Darcy Zotter, said the essence of the visit is to enable Nigerian women share their experiences, and to also encourage STEM education and STEM entrepreneurship among women in Nigeria. “The initiative of the forum in Nigeria, is to encourage women who are already working, irrespective of whether they are in the technology space or not. Nigeria, given its large position, stands a position to become a technology hub for Africa. The essence again is to bridge the digital divide and gender inequality,” Zotter said.

The challenge of women in STEM education in Nigeria is the same challenge globally, and it is for this reason that former President Barack Obama of the United States made a decision to consciously encourage women in STEM education, Zotter said.

The goal of encouraging the role of girls and women in STEM fields has been cornerstone of the technology-learning programmes funded by the US mission in Nigeria. The US has invested millions of dollars to directly advance gender equality across sub-Saharan Africa, through activities that promote political and economic opportunities for women, access to health and education services, and efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, Bray added.