More calls for female participation in STEM

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The UN aims to achieve equal access to and participation in STEM for young women.
The UN aims to achieve equal access to and participation in STEM for young women.

As the world marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science today, the spotlight has once again shone on the lack of women and girls in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

According to Unesco data, only about 30% of all female students pursue careers in STEM-related fields globally.

Bongi Ntsoelengoe, technology manager at Anglo American's Kumba Iron Ore, says the global figures mirror what is happening in SA, noting that encouragement seems to be the key to speeding up the uptake of careers in STEM.

"STEM skills are the foundation upon which our country's development and future prosperity is built," she says. "A groundswell of new engineering talent is imperative to liberate our country from underdevelopment. It is imperative that we do everything within our power to instil a passion for the STEM fields in our young people."

Ntsoelengoe encourages those already working in related fields to find ways of showing learners, especially young women, the real power of STEM to build a better future.

"Take them on site visits, invite them for job shadowing, encourage internships, get involved in problem-solving platforms such as hackathons, expose and encourage development of digital skills; do whatever it takes to engage and prepare young people to adopt to the fourth industrial revolution that we find ourselves in. The future of our country will be built on the work of these young engineers, technologists and technicians."

The United Nations declared 11 February as International Day of Women and Girls in Science to raise awareness of the low levels of female participation in the fields of STEM.

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, science and technology minister, will today host female learners at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg to mark this occasion.

The theme for this year's event is "Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth".

Kubayi-Ngubane will be joined by professor Philiswa Nomngongo, a South African Women in Science Awards (SAWiSA) winner, and 170 female learners.

Nomngongo is an associate professor in the Department of Applied Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg. In 2017, she received a SAWiSA award under the category of Distinguished Young Women Researchers in Natural and Engineering Sciences.

The science and technology department says International Day of Women and Girls in Science will also be celebrated through an exhibition tour and a South African National Space Agency outreach targeting girl learners.

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