By Tolu Oyekan, Partner, Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
Over the years, the study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has increasingly gained grounds across the world. Nigeria is not left out as many young people are becoming more interested in studying science subjects at secondary and tertiary levels of education.
This is no surprise as our world today is largely driven by technology. Technology encompasses practically every facet of our lives. Life has become easier through the application of technology. For instance, Information and communication technology (ICT) has proven to be invaluable as the world tries to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic challenges. The application of ICT tools kept people connected, made essential services accessible and sustained businesses.
The 21st century brought about lots of scientific innovations which have propelled the need for students at different levels to become more proficient in the knowledge of STEM. Besides Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics; other STEM subjects include Actuarial Science, Statistics, Psychology, Robotics, Information Science, Atmospheric Sciences and Educational Research.
Experts have discovered that early exposure of students to STEM and technology-related subjects will help young people develop a passion for technological pursuits and eventually help them pursue a job in a STEM field.
Right now, the fastest growing job categories are related to STEM with recent studies indicating new jobs in areas such as data analysis, software development and data visualization, virtual reality, artificial intelligence etc.
However, girls are highly under-represented in STEM and ICT classes; globally the percentage of young girls undertaking ICT courses range from 8.9% in Switzerland to 20.0% in United States, except for India with 50.5%. What this means is that except this trend changes, women will remain under-represented in the future workplaces.
This year, the International Girls in ICT Day held on April 22 with the theme: ‘Connected Girls, Creating Brighter Futures’. On this day every year, stakeholders in the technology space and indeed all of us, should seek opportunities to empower girls to develop digital skills so as to pursue careers enabled by technology.
As these young girls move on to take up various careers in the ICT sphere, they are faced with several challenges, particularly finding a perfect work-life balance. Conditions like pregnancy, breastfeeding and child care pitched against rigorous work hours, put many women in disadvantaged positions. In many cases, childcare centres are not found close to places of work resulting in women working part-time or accepting lower paying jobs to focus on their homes or quitting their career early.
There is also the glass ceiling issue affecting females in ICT such as gender biases during appointments, promotion and career improvement opportunities as well as harassment, biased evaluation by peers along with familial responsibilities, which could cause increased stress.
There could be several factors which account for the under-representation of girls in STEM. One which is quite obvious, is the issue of the environment, culture as well as the emphasis on gender equality and encouragement of growth mindset. A report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that the learning environment and social belief system affect girls’ interest and achievements in STEM/ICT subjects.
Another study showed that in countries like Sweden and Iceland where gender parity prevails, girls perform better than boys on Math tests. On the other hand, girls from countries like Turkey where gender discrimination is greater, don’t do well in Math tests.
Research also shows that majority of people view STEM fields as which should be ideally dominated by men; a view which still holds sway to this day. Society views women in science and engineering jobs as less competent than men unless they are exhibiting success tendencies.
No doubt, there are many women who are exceling in science and ICT-related fields. Some examples of women excelling in ICT globally include Sheryl Kara Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org; Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Inc and its subsidiary, Google and Ginni Rometty, Former Chairman, President and CEO of IBM, In Nigeria, worthy role models for girls are Funke Opeke, founder, Main One Technologies; Omobola Johnson, former Nigerian Minister for Communication Technology; Juliet Ehimuan, Country Manager Nigeria, Google; and Cherry Eromosele Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Interswitch, to name a few.
The beautiful thing is that girls definitely bring a fresh sense of perspective to problem solving in the classrooms and workplaces as professionals. One of such ways is using her ‘voice’; by this, I don’t just mean talking. It is when a girl challenges the status quo, excels at her studies, contributes in making policies or suggests an idea that moves their schools or organisation towards a new course of action.
Some studies have shown that teams with women as leaders were more successful when facing tasks that are more mentally challenging and required complex problem-solving abilities. But this good performance only showed if the women spoke up, if the men believed that women were capable contributors, and if the team acted on the women’s suggestions.
To ensure girls are more interested in STEM and ICT careers, women already in these fields should get more involved in the development of STEM policies which will favour and encourage girls to develop interest in these subjects. These will include exposing girls to STEM fields, encouraging participation in STEM programmes, providing scholarships, as well as supporting learning opportunities in communities.
And men can be effective allies in the gender equality conversations. They can start with listening their female conterparts and taking their concerns seriously. Men in position of authority can bring their influence to bear by amplifying women’s voices, educating other men against stereotype, credit women’s work and ideas fairly, advocate for policies that removes bias and advances equality. More importantly, men should show their support, at home, workplace and other social circles.
At Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the education and encouragement of girls to fit adequately into the future of jobs, is a core aspect of our ‘Back to The Future’ agenda. Currently, there are more women in the BCG workforce in Lagos, than there are men. Working with this crop of brilliant women have brought interesting and insightful perspectives to problem- solving. So, I know first-hand that women bring fresh perspective to problem-solving.
I hope that more girls will begin to have affinity for STEM subjects and capacity will be built in ICT-based endeavours to gain new skills and enhance problem solving.
Inlaks Supports PAU’s Yemisi Shyllon Museum Precolonial Societies of Nigeria Arts initiative
As part of its 2021 Corporate Social Responsibility thrust, Inlaks, a foremost ICT, infrastructure and systems integrator in Sub-Saharan Africa, is supporting the Yemisi Shyllon Museumof Artof Pan Atlantic University’s initiative of aiding the Learning of History through Art for secondary school students in Lagos State.
The initiative is collaboration between the YemisiShyllon Museum of Art and the Lagos State Ministry of Education to promote and foster learning of Nigerian History through artworks from the museum’s collection.
Addressing the students at the Museum in Lagos, Adetokunbo Ayo-Ogunsanva, Inlaks Group Head, Human Resources & Administration, said the initiative will not only shape the students’ future but have a lasting impact on them.
“As an organization, we decided to partner with the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art to provide this opportunity because we believe in the future of tomorrow. This is a wonderful initiative and I will like you to maximize this opportunity. There is a saying that ‘when preparation meets opportunity then you have success.”
Speaking on the CSR Policy of the company, she noted that though Inlaks is an ICT organization, the initiative is consistent with its corporate social responsibility (CSR) and reflects its commitment to boost education in Nigeria.
The Director, Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art of Pan Atlantic University, Dr Jess Castellote, speaking during the occasion, explained that the initiative was borne out of the need to help young people know more about the history, tradition, and culture of Nigeria due to the lack of resources in some public secondary and primary schools.
While speaking on the impact of the initiative on the students, he said, “The students are surprised by the richness, the variety and quality of the works, particularly of the finished works and the materials used, be it bronze, wood,clay and others. In some cases, theyhave expressed interest in wanting to know more, which to us means success. We want them to think and learn and have an experience that will last forever. Our pilot programme is focused on the Benin bronzesand we are confident that the artworks displayed here will have a lasting impact on the students”.
Speaking on the initiative, Mr. Ibrahim Olatunji Lateef, a teacher from Community Senior High School, Orimedu expressed unreserved appreciation for the laudable initiative, adding that the benefitting schools and students are forever grateful to the LASG, Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Inlaks and other sponsors for this inestimable and kind gesture.
Also, Awosu Oluwagbenga Jonah, a student from Community Senior High School, Orimedu, thanked the organisers noting that he is now better equipped with knowledge of Nigerian History and Creative Arts which would improve his competitiveness and flair.
The Precolonial Societies of Nigeria initiative in collaboration with the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Arts, forms a part of Inlaks’ Corporate Social Responsibility tripod of Education, Information and Communications Technology and Healthcare Development in Nigeria, Ghana, and East Africa where it currently operates.
2021 Museum Day: Danbatta Harps on Innovative Museums for Sustainable Development
The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has called for ingenious ways of collecting antiquities relevant to operations of various organizations in the country in order to preserve the relics that can bridge the knowledge gap needed for sustainable development of Nigeria.
Danbatta, who was represented by the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management (ECSM), NCC, Barr. Adewolu Adeleke, made the call recently in Abuja when the Commission joined in the celebration of the 2021 international museum day with the theme, “the future of museums: recover and reimagine”.
While speaking on the theme, Danbatta said it appropriately captures the reason the commission established a special museum for the telecommunications industry in the country, as it is intended to bridge the historical knowledge gap in the evolution of communication as well as meeting the need for information by future generations.
”The NCC communications museum was established in November, 2006 for documentation of historical collections on the evolution of communications in Nigeria. Communication artifacts were identified in various locations across the Country where postal and telecommunication offices were established in order to retrieve relics for exhibition”.
Danbatta explained further that the museum should be seen as an important resourceful centre that can stimulate critical thinking and creative ideas for expanding the frontiers of knowledge and advancement of development in relevant sectors of the economy.
“Our museum is designed and reinvented to conserve the history of the Nigerian telecommunications industry and we see it as very important to collect, exhibit and preserve telecommunications items to enlighten and educate stakeholders on the evolution of communications with a view to nudging our minds towards critical thinking that will bring about new innovations to assist in building a better future for our industry and the nation.
“The NCC Museum plays valuable roles in supporting the Commission’s agenda by providing unique information resources to cater for historical needs of the future generations, while building capacity and stimulating innovations to assist in fashioning out a better future for the Nigerian communications industry,” Danbatta added.
Speaking further at the event, Danbatta said the NCC Museum Day is a demonstration of the Commission’s commitment to facilitating learning and collaboration with relevant Museum professional bodies, in order to conserve antiquities used to develop the industry, in the best possible manner for socio-economic impact of the nation.”
The Museum generally plays important roles in the society by conserving the past and helping to shape the future through providing needed insight into history, while educating future generations and equipping them with the requisite information and knowledge for sustainable development.
The Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Prof. Abba Isa Tijani was represented at the event by the Assistant Director, Museums, Kilba Zainab Uche, who presented a brief on the ‘Role of Museum in the Digital Era’.
MTN Foundation Seeks Applications for Scholarship
In a bid to recognise and promote academic excellence amongst high-performing students in various accredited Nigerian public tertiary institutions, the MTN Foundation has announced the call for application for its 2021 scholarships.
Through its foundation, MTN provides two categories of scholarships annually: the MTN Science and Technology Scholarship Students (MTN STSS) and the MTN Scholarship for Blind Students (MTN SBS).
MTN STS is open to all 300 level Science & Technology students with a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.5 (Second Class Upper or its equivalent), whilst MTN SBS caters to the educational needs of blind students in 200 level with a minimum CGPA of 2.5 or its equivalent.
The scholarships are a demonstration of MTN’s commitment to supporting the country’s development through youth education.
Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation, Odunayo Sanya said, “As a brand committed to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, we understand that providing the support to Nigerian students, particularly students of public tertiary institutions, is crucial to securing the future growth and development of our nation. This knowledge underscores our diverse interventions in the educational sector.”
‘‘We look forward to receiving the applications of interested students and are keen to enable successful applicants actualise their dreams,” she concluded.
Amongst other benefits, MTN scholars are awarded N200,000 annually for three years until graduation, provided they maintain the minimum grade point requirement. The MTN Foundation has awarded scholarships to over 4,000 students to date.
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