Women around the globe account for 35 percent of students enrolled in higher education science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to a 2017 UNESCO report. However, by the end of tertiary education, women only comprise less than 3 percent of information and communication technology (ICT) graduates.
These numbers indicate a failure of educational systems to retain girls in STEM. This results in a deficiency of women in STEM jobs, which is especially alarming because these STEM careers drive innovation, inclusive growth and sustainable development. To address this challenge and improve the participation and achievement of girls in STEM, several organizations are amplifying girls’ STEM education in developing nations.
5 Organizations Investing in Girls’ STEM Education in Developing Nations
- Indian Girls Code: Founded in 2013 by two sisters, the Indian Girls Code offers free coding and robotics education for underprivileged girls in India. The initiative began in multiple cities as an afterschool program and summer camp for girls as young as 4 and 5 years old. It has since expanded to include weekly classes for 75 primary school students at Annai Ashram, an all-girls orphanage in Trichy. Indian Girls Code believes a hands-on education inspires creativity and innovation. As such, students are taught using Scratch, an open-source software, and Phiro robots, which are programmable, Lego-compatible toys
- Tech Needs Girls: Tech Needs Girls is an educational initiative based in mentorship that aims to equip young Ghanian girls with skills in coding and information technology. The organization has 200 mentors, who are all either female computer scientists or engineers; these mentors have collectively trained more than 4,500 girls — many of whom come from extreme poverty conditions. Girls between the ages of 6 and 18 are encouraged to participate by gaining knowledge of the basics of computing, set up blogs and develop software applications. The founder of Tech Needs Girls, Regina Agyare, an IT graduate and entrepreneur, hopes that teaching girls about technology will enable them to become economically empowered, self-confident and passionate.
- Code to Inspire: As the first coding academy for girls in Afghanistan, Code to Inspire has taught 200 high-school girls to code and build mobile applications and games. Since the organization’s launch in 2015, more than 70 percent of the students have graduated and continued on to find work with above-average compensation. The founder of Code to Inspire, Fereshteh Forough, aspires to help close the gender gap in STEM by teaching Afghani women the skills to achieve financial and social independence and stability. Forough sees coding as uniquely valuable to female economic empowerment — since coding can be done remotely, female software developers can work from home while building a career.
- Pearls Africa Foundation: Located in Nigeria’s Silicon Valley, GirlsCoding, a free program run by the Pearls Africa Foundation, is educating girls in the fields of coding and software development. GirlsCoding offers weekly courses in digital literacy to underserved and underrepresented girls between the ages of 7 and 18. Since 2012, the initiative has educated more than 400 girls. GirlsCoding also helps promote the continuation of tech education and careers by introducing students to different tech companies in the region. In the future, GirlsCoding hopes to expand to different states in Nigeria.
- She Will Connect Africa: An initiative of Intel, She Will Connect Africa, has trained more than 150,000 women in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya in digital literacy since launch in 2013. She Will Connect Africa aims to expand to reach five million women by the end of 2020. The program operates in two main ways. First, She Will Connect Africa partners with nongovernmental organizations to integrate face-to-face digital learning into development programs targeting women and girls. Second, the initiative also partners with job placement organizations to enable women to access continued opportunities in STEM.
With technological change accelerating, a continued failure to develop girls’ STEM education will diminish the potential of half the global population. However, by investing in girls’ STEM education in developing nations, these five organizations are driving innovation and women’s economic participation. These goals are highly cost-effective and thoughtful investments; closing the gender gap in digital fluency will open work opportunities for women, contribute to national economic growth and help achieve larger gender parity.
– Kayleigh Rubin