Did you know that as of 2020 the number of men and women globally is roughly equal, though men hold a slight lead with 102 men for every 100 women? Yet women account for only 27% of workers in STEM – qualified industries as of 2019 globally.
According to UNESCO, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for about 28% of women in STEM careers and only 30 per cent of researchers. This is a significant problem because by not bridging the gender gap in STEM, Africa misses out on a more gendered perspective in addressing critical issues in global health such as, infectious diseases, which often disproportionately affect women and girls.
However, Africa has demonstrated its commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Almost all countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. For instance, in Rwanda women are well represented in the government and different institutions. Rwanda leads in the world proportion of women in the national parliament, with 61% of its parliament seats making Rwanda a renowned pioneer in gender equality and is championing more women in STEM.
In alignment with this agenda, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) designed its programs specially to attract more female scientists into the STEM pipeline to promote girl education. AIMS strives to inspire more women to become future scientists and to achieve this we apply a 30 % quota in recruiting top female talent.
Since its inception, 37% of AIMS Rwanda’s alumni are women and the institute strives to nurture more African women into becoming the next generation of scientists. .
The Teacher Training Program (TTP) is another avenue that AIMS is leveraging to counter the gender gap disparity in STEM education. The Teacher Training program was set up to improve the teaching & learning of mathematics and sciences as well as increase the number of girls and boys who pursue those courses at the tertiary level. The TTP is empowering teachers to improve their pedagogy, increase the transition to tertiary STEM education & address the challenges that force girls out of mathematics and science fields. TTP has managed to empower over 4000 teachers since its inception and recently launched the very first Teacher Appreciation Campaign in Rwanda, awarding over 100 teachers.
The COVID 19 pandemic was a great eye-opener on how important women’s contribution to science is. A great example is women scientists and professionals such as, Alima Dajuma from Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) who is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in climate science at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) Rwanda in Kigali. Her research interest is in climate change and climate modeling, especially climate extremes and hazards a global challenge that requires collective effort to solve.
Belona Sonna our Alumna who fell in love with Artificial Intelligence and upon realizing its potential in Africa, especially in the healthcare system started BEL’S AI INITIATIVE to teach the basics needed to understand and use artificial intelligence.
Our #Alumna, Eva Ujeneza uses mathematical and statistical models to answer questions related to public health issues with a focus on infectious diseases. She was recently recognised by eLife Ben Barres Spotlight Awards for her research in the application of mathematics to monitor immune system recovery among HIV patients receiving antiviral therapy. Such critical research would not be possible unless we anchor in our efforts to support more women in STEM fields. These are a few examples of how critically important it is to break the biases on women in STEM.
So, how can we attract more women in STEM? Global research has demonstrated the power of mathematics and science to fuel economic growth, and we need all hands-on deck to achieve this. Breaking gender stereo types from the grassroots is a good method to encourage more girls into the STEM field. At the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, we remain committed to inspiring more women to become future scientists.