Gender Gap in STEM CareersDigital technology has become a core asset to everyday life. The mind-boggling contributions that it affords the world are the closest to magic that we can get. This rapid progress has required the world’s workforce to evolve as well. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is crucial to supply every member of the future workforce with the skills needed to occupy future careers. Despite this necessity, many countries –particularly those in Africa–experience a gender gap in STEM careers and education, leaving female workers far behind their male counterparts.

According to the United Nations World Population Prospects, over 60% of Africa’s population is currently under the age of 25. Because of this, countries in Africa have the incredible opportunity to elevate their economies by producing a workforce of skilled STEM professionals. Despite this opportunity, there is still a worrisome gender gap in STEM careers in Sub-Saharan Africa–in order to take full advantage of advances in technology, this must be rectified. Here are five things to know about this gender gap in STEM careers.

5 Things to Know About the Gender Gap in STEM Careers in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Inconsistent Access to Electricity: Only 22% of primary schools have reliable access to electricity. This instability in electrical infrastructure makes it difficult for teachers and students to utilize technology to facilitate learning. This is a missed opportunity to expose children, including young girls, to technology and to spark a potential interest in STEM careers.
  2. Lackluster Enrollment Rates: Many children are out of school. According to the 2018 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Global Education Monitoring Report, 21% of children in sub-Saharan Africa are not enrolled in primary school. The rate of unenrolled students surges up to 57% for upper secondary education.
  3. Gender Gap in Leadership Positions: There are few examples of women in leadership positions. In most African countries, leadership positions for universities and research facilities are occupied by men. Men employed in these positions of power influence the decision-making process and tend to enjoy a higher salary than their female counterparts. Women in science typically work primarily in academic and government institutions as lecturers and research assistants. Very few women become professors or are able to contribute to major studies.
  4. Household Burdens: There aren’t sufficient frameworks or policies in place to encourage and protect women in science. Women are less likely to enter and more likely to leave STEM fields than their male counterparts. In many African societies, women shoulder the majority of the household burdens. They don’t receive the support they need to simultaneously juggle their academic ambitions and care for their families. Many women find it difficult to find adequate childcare. Additionally, if a woman decides to take a break to start a family, she may find it difficult to resume her career because of a lack of re-entry programs.
  5. Weak Support Systems: There are a lack of female mentors. In a challenging career path dominated primarily by men, it’s necessary for women to have a support system. Mentorship helps provide the potential to establish networks and grow professionally. The absence of this support system is a big deterrent for women who may find themselves feeling isolated or diminished in their field.

A country’s ability to fight disease, protect its environment and produce necessary products for its citizens is largely dependent on its citizens’ technological prowess and skill. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have a wonderful opportunity to tap into their youth and produce a workforce of highly skilled professionals. Women’s participation in sciences and technologies will be a key driver in this development. There are many organizations taking a stance to address the gender gap. The African Ministers of Education adopted the Gender Equality Strategy for CESA 16-25, a detailed strategy and plan to bridge the gender gap. The future is looking brighter with each passing day. If African governments continue to support ambitious young women, the gender gap in STEM careers in sub-Saharan Africa will surely begin to close.

Jasmine Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Education in AlbaniaAlbania is a small nation in the Balkan peninsula on Greece’s northwest border. The majority of Albanian people are Muslim, which is an echo of Ottoman rule in the past. Albania became a Stalinist state under the rule of Enver Hoxha after World War II. In 1992, 42 years of communist rule was brought to an end through elections.

According to UNESCO, education in Albania has undergone various changes in order to bring the curriculum up to date, make mandatory education more accessible and fit national objectives within European and international guidelines since its transition to democracy.

Compared to other countries, there is less spent on education in Albania, according to the Albanian Coalition for Child Education. The nation set aside 3.5 percent of its GDP for education in 1999 and only 2.7 percent in 2013, which puts it almost 2 percent lower than the average in Eastern Europe.

The amount spent per elementary and secondary student in Albania was also reported as being among the lowest in the area. In 2005, Albanians had an average of 8.5 years of education, compared to an average of 12 years among ten EU member nations. The latest statistic shows that there is now an average of 11.9 years of education among Albanians.

Over the last 10 years, education in Albania has made considerable progress. The nation adopted The Law on Inclusive Education in 2012, which guarantees the right to an education to disabled children. It also guarantees them access to specialized personnel who are trained to cater to their needs.

Although this is a step in the right direction, there are still issues that need to be addressed regarding education in Albania. Over 50 percent of Roma children between 6 and 16 have never been in school and more than 40 percent between the ages of 15 and 16 are considered illiterate.

Education in Albania has made significant progress, but there still remains extensive ground to be covered. The government of Albania is taking the necessary steps to ensure that its system is up to global standards.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr