Women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and in scientific leadership. In Africa, they have a vital part to play. The article ‘Driving gender equity in African scientific institutions‘ by Barbara Atogho Tiedeu, Oluwafunmilayo Josephine Para-Mallam and Dorothy Nyambi in the Lancet explores this need and explores best practices for closing the gender equity gap.
Why is it important to close the gender gap in STEM fields?
The article cites facts about the gender disparity in STEM fields, which limits the inclusion of perspectives vital to robust scientific enquiry and advancements.
- Women account for 53% of the world’s bachelor’s and master’s degree graduates and 43% of PhD graduates, but only 28% of researchers in all fields.
- 30% of women in higher education move into STEM-related fields
- In sub-Saharan Africa, only 30% of researchers in all subject areas are women
- Between 2011 and 2013, there was an increase in the percentage of women researchers in South Africa (43·7%), Egypt (42·8%), Morocco (30·2%), Senegal (24·9%), Nigeria (23·3%), Rwanda (21·8%), Cameroon (21·8%), and Ethiopia (13·3%).
“Women scientists have a vital part to play in scientific leadership and in contributing to Africa’s development and transformation, but they remain substantially under-represented in higher education and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).”
Interventions to address the gender gap in STEM
The article lists various projects and organisations tacking the issue in different ways. Types of intervention include:
- Aggregating data and designing policy interventions
- Maintaining databases to ensure tracking, mentorship and placement of talent
- Examining evidence showing how biological and sociocultural differences impact outcomes
- Recognising achievement through awards
- Skills-building and mentoring
- Advocacy and awareness.
The article notes that further structural and societal change is needed to support women in STEM and close the gender equity gap. This includes addressing men playing a greater role in carrying family responsibilities.
Source: Tiedeu, B.A., Para-Mallam, O.J. and Nyambi, D. (2019) “Driving gender equity in African Scientific Institutions,” The Lancet, 393(10171), pp. 504–506. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(19)30284-3.