Celebrating Women In STEM

Women in STEM by Honoris Staff Writer

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming the way we live, work and think; disrupting industries, governmental systems and the labour market. This change will have wide-ranging implications for the role of women in society, specifically in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). As low-skilled jobs become increasingly automated, careers in STEM will rapidly grow, representing the majority of the jobs of the future. However, the fields most relevant to Industry 4.0 are the very ones where women remain underrepresented in most countries, namely in IT, computing, physics, mathematics and engineering.

Honoris United Universities is committed to supporting women’s empowerment and leadership. In partnership with Women In Africa (WIA) Philanthropy, every year Honoris United Universities and WIA award 54 exceptional women entrepreneurs from 54 countries across Africa with the opportunity to attend a life-changing programme, aimed at empowering them with the skills and knowledge to succeed in their entrepreneurial ventures.

To unpack the role women have to play in STEM, we spoke to three WIA Laureates who are successful female entrepreneurs in the STEM field.

Eunice Maina-Mburu

Eunice Maina-Mburu is the CEO & Founder of Bismart Insurance, an InsureTech in Kenya that is innovating insurance products that are relevant to the African market, connecting customers and insurance providers using technology. Eunice has a Bachelor of Science (in Mathematics and Chemistry) is a Microsoft-Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and has an International Advanced Diploma in Computer Studies (IADCS). She is also the Author of, “Sell Me This Pen” – a story of grit and determination and the ideals of being an entrepreneur.

Why is it important that we encourage women and girls to work in STEM fields?

Girls and women are as capable as men when it comes to Science and Technology. Being a woman does not make you less intellectual or capable. I think it’s crucial that we encourage STEM studies because it teaches you skills that are crucial for the future. In my opinion, people who have studied science make better sales people, communicators, entrepreneurs and CEOs. All these roles require critical thinkers who are able to problem-solve and think on their feet.

What barriers did you face as a woman in the STEM field?

I am lucky that I haven’t come across many barriers in my career. Sometimes I come across people who are amazed by the fact that I did Mathematics and Chemistry. This is because society has often stereotyped Science and Mathematics as being male pursuits.

How do you think we can encourage young women to get involved in STEM?

We should emphasise the need for STEM skills in the future and create awareness around the exciting innovations that are happening in STEM. I also believe it starts at home – we must raise our children to pursue their passions, no matter their gender. We must acknowledge that gender does not determine one’s capability. This is where a mindset shift needs to happen – in how we view girls and women.

Jessica Naga

Jessica Naga is the Managing Director of Digital Associates Ltd. She is passionate about FinTech and digitalisation, and created Digital Associates Ltd (part of the Digital Partners Network Group), a licensed law firm, to specialise in these areas. She also co-founded the SECDEX group, a regulated market infrastructure ecosystem located in the Seychelles, which includes an exchange, a clearing house, a securities depository and a digital custodian, with the intent to bring funding and liquidity to African businesses, including SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Why is it important that we encourage women and girls to work in STEM fields?

STEM fields are crucial for innovation, which is what drives society forward. I believe that women and men can each bring unique perspectives and that the best results for society as a whole will be achieved by tapping into and celebrating this difference.

What barriers did you face as a woman in the STEM field and how did you overcome these challenges?

I worked incredibly hard to get to where I am today and looking back, I realise that I did not receive much guidance or support. It is incredibly hard to juggle a demanding career and pregnancy, and thereafter kids. My path could have been much easier and I hope that it will be for newer generations. I believe we should actively look at supporting women better to enable them to reach their full potential. The lack of support is one of the main reasons why we see a much smaller proportion of women at the highest level of STEM related jobs.

What advice would you give to female students looking to pursue a career in STEM?

Pursue what makes you happy and makes you feel like you are contributing to society – your passion will help you overcome most challenges. I also advise students to choose employers who are supportive of women and promote gender equality. That’s where you will find more female role models and more support to help you reach your potential.

How do you think we can encourage young women to get involved in STEM?

I believe we should start young. It is important to encourage young girls to play with toys that develop skills linked to STEM. We need to make science games more attractive to girls. We need to also teach parents about the importance of nurturing creativity and curiosity in girls, as they do in boys.

Elvy Gotiene

Elvy Gotiene is the co-founder of RECREATION Multimedia, a digital communications agency. She began her career in accounting after studying a financial degree and gaining her Masters in Business Management. Through her own independent studies, she moved into the multimedia industry where she now focuses on projects which empower women. She is also the author of the book “ADN au feminin” (Women’s DNA).

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

At the age of 16 I did a scientific baccalaureate because mathematics was a skill which came easily to me. My grandfather believed in my potential and always encouraged me. Although people could say it was a male domain, I believe that the human brain has no gender and talent has no sex. You can give yourself the means to study or pursue the professions that interest you. Your passion should be your guide.

Why is it important that we encourage women and girls to work in STEM fields?

Historically there has been a lack of recognition for many great women scientists. This as well as social stereotypes have led women to opt for other professions. But the future of work will be in STEAM fields and women deserve a place in that future.

How did you develop yourself as a professional in STEM?

Nowadays, there are many opportunities for young women to pursue. I learned on the job, I participated in online training and took online courses. Thanks to the Internet, if you are disciplined, you can learn and pursue any field that interests you.

What advice would you give to other young women pursuing careers in STEM?

Upskill and build your future by training yourself in future-focused skills such as coding, data analysis, artificial intelligence, application development and multimedia. It was thanks to that, that I was able to move into multimedia production and digital communication. If I was able to do it, it’s possible for anyone.