Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) plays a vital role in the economy of a country, enabling enterprising young people to develop solutions to problems within their communities and take up business opportunities. The under-representation of women within STEM fields around the globe, however, is severely hampering lack of diverse thinking as well as critical mass of talent within these fields.
Women represent a minority in STEM industries, only accounting for 11% of employees within architecture and engineering globally for instance, according to the World Economic Forum. Across Africa, women only constitute 4,5% of the entire engineering workforce. In South Africa, a mere 11% of all engineers registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) are women, while just 4% are professional engineers.
A very encouraging development is the fact that there has been a 203% increase in the number of registered candidate females to ECSA over the last five years. However, a lot still needs to be done to make STEM careers in general and engineering fields specifically, more attractive to female students. This, as just 5879 female candidates were registered with ECSA by the end of its 2017/18 financial year, compared to 16 890 males.
Locally, there are many avenues through which women are able to convert their talent for creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving skills into a career through which to contribute to the development of the country and their respective communities.
For instance, Monash South Africa (MSA) have extended their academic offering this year, by offering Engineering within their expanded Faculty of Business, Engineering and Technology. MSA is the first Private Higher Education institution to offer an internationally recognised Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) programme that is endorsed by ECSA.
The availability of qualifications such as these within tertiary educational institutions across Africa, will also assist in bringing down the high ratio of citizens to engineers which indicates the dramatic need for engineers in these countries.
WomEng, an organization dedicated to developing the pipeline of Women in Engineering, has begun working with MSA and projects focussed in Africa. From available information, for instance, within Malawi that ratio is 1 engineer to 14 000 people while it is 1 engineer to 6 500 people within Zimbabwe. Previous studies have shown that some countries have between 1 engineer for every 300 to 1 Engineer to 800 people, illustrating the drastic need for qualified engineers across the continent.
“This degree programme will provide engineers with skillsets that are in high demand, making them really sought after by a myriad of potential employers,” says Yashin Brijmohan, Executive Dean, MSA.
According to Brijmohan, students who complete this degree, will be able to assume engineering positions within private consultation firms and development laboratories, large and small private enterprises involved with the design, development, production, and marketing of electronic and electrical systems, subsystems, as well as components of products or become entrepreneurs by starting their own businesses.
“Our female graduates will be able to break stereotypes by becoming creators and owners of technologies and technology management,” concluded Brijmohan.