Female Inclusivity in STEM


7/14/20233 min leer

There are a lot of notable women in the STEM fields, and more often than not, Ghanaian, and to a larger extent, African women seldom feature on these lists. One could ask, are not any female scientists, engineers or mathematicians in our country or on our continent?

Are Western or Asian women better than African women when it comes to STEM? Indeed, we do have who excel in STEM fields and are just as brilliant as their Western and Asian counterparts.

This now begs the questions, “Why are our numbers significantly lower and why progress is happening at an overly slow rate?” The real answers lie behind the circumstances that engineer (no pun intended) the snail pace growth of women in STEM fields in Ghana.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is crucial to the evolution of any society and Ghana, at its own pace, has made significant progress in catching up with the West. However, this has been unfairly skewed to place boys and men at the forefront of the STEM education or fields, along with the benefits that come with them.

It is evident that that there is still more work to been in the development of more home-grown discoveries related to STEM fields. This will enable us to be less reliant on foreign theories and technologies.

According to studies conducted by Paul Loprinzi and Emily Firth (2018) in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, women outperformed men in verbal-based episodic memories. They were also found to access their memories faster than men, and exhibit better in random word recall, auditory episodic memory, and semantic memory, among other areas.

These studies clearly demonstrate the counterproductive nature of excluding females in the advancement of STEM education. There is pervasive assumption that men with STEM training are more valuable than women which an unfounded bias. This biased perspective often lead to low-income households directing young girls, who possess untapped potential, toward selling petty wares, while boys are given the opportunity to pursue higher aspirations.

Regrettably, these notions are driven by an archaic school of thought that suggests a woman’s place is in the shadow of her husband. Additionally, there is the concerning yet subtle issue of gender-insensitive teaching methods especially in primary and high schools of Ghana. It is quite common to observe predominantly men instructing science subjects in an all-girls’ high school, while their female colleagues are found teaching gender-stereotyped subjects. It is reasonable to argue that female teachers in the STEM disciplines should take the lead of imparting knowledge to female students. This approach reinforces the idea that “Women can do or be anything”.

In many instances, the effort invested in teaching a boy STEM subjects is not equal to that which is directed towards girls.

Women such as Regina Honu, Farida Bedwei, Marian Ewurama Addy, Larisa Akrofie, Sylvia Anie, Mavis Owureku-Asare, and Lucy Quist are a few women have been instrumental in championing the cause for more girls and women to pursue STEM education-related field in Ghana. Furthermore, the aforementioned women have become role models who continuously inspire a generation of women encouraging them to take a keen interest in STEM without fear.

In addition, there has also been a notable increase in female-centric STEM clubs and schools such as STEMbees, Soronko Academy, Ghana Code Club, Accra STEM camp for girls, African Science Academy (an all girls’ science pre-university in Ghana). These initiatives aim to equip our future female pioneers with fundamental knowledge of STEM concepts while fostering innovative teaching methods and providing practical opportunities to apply the theories they learn.

We can no longer afford to let potential talents and human resources go to waste. The saying, “When you educate a woman, you educate a nation”, holds true. It is imperative to bridge the gender gap by actively encouraging and supporting STEM projects in Ghana, particularly those aimed at marginalised girls.

In my humble opinion, this is the crucial first step towards uncovering the tremendous talent our country possesses and bringing us on par with our Western and Eastern counterparts, who are already far ahead this regard.