11 October is the day designated by the United Nations as the ‘Day of the Girl Child’, and it began in 2012. The International Day of the Girl Child is a day to bring focus on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
For this year, I have decided to focus on women in STEM careers. I studied Engineering up to master’s level, and I was fortunate to have parents who cheered me on and told me I could be anything I want to be. Even though my family was supportive, other people had a different opinion. I remember visiting a family friend who was in her 70’s when I was a student, and she asked me why I wanted to do a man’s job. When I remembered her age, I realized when she was young Engineering was not a career path for women. That being said, it’s sad to see in this day, and age young girls with the talent and desire to become Engineers or anything else in STEM say they are unable to do so just because they are girls. I am aware some of these girls come from families or societies that are not yet ready to break gender stereotypes.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, there is a low number of women enrolling for STEM courses in tertiary institutions globally. About 8% for construction, engineering, and manufacturing; 5% for mathematics and statistics and 3% for ICT courses. Also, women who choose to pursue a STEM career later face the prospect of unequal pay and restricted career progression.
As we celebrate the girl child, let us remember to tell the young girls in our lives that they are leaders, change-makers, and provide opportunities for them to shine.