Sunday Aikulola/Guardian newspaper
A professor of Science Education at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Uchenna Udeani has stressed the need for a fresh rethink on the role of women in the scientific enterprise, insisting that great potential is being lost by failure to encourage more women to enter the world of scientific exploration.
In her inaugural lecture at the institution’s campus in Lagos recently, she emphasised the need to secure for women an entirely new value and significance arguing that this would not be achieved unless women themselves are allowed to have a say in determining what the value should be.
Speaking on the topic: ‘Beyond bias and barriers: Fulfilling the potentials of women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Prof Udeani added that women are well able to hold their own in the man’s world of science and technology and that they have a unique dimension to lend to the scientific enterprise.
“Subsequent generation will judge us, the scientific community, on our ability to use science to benefit the poorest, most disadvantaged sectors of society.”
Specifically, she added that there is need for promotion of more female role models in STEM fields, whether female teachers in mathematics and science at the secondary level, female students and faculty members in higher education and more broadly more women working in STEM fields is an effective strategy to attract women and girls in STEM fields.
Continuing, she said gender-responsive action plans across all tiers of education-primary, secondary, and tertiary including also Ministry of Women Affairs, Science and Technology is necessary in order to create more opportunities for girls and women to study and pursue careers in STEM as well as investment and review of educational policies and frameworks to stimulate interest in STEM-related subjects among girls.
The media, faith and community-based organisations, she suggested, could be used to educate and sensitise citizens to introduce changes into their socio-cultural beliefs and gender role stereotypes that science and mathematics are for boys only and that the place of women is in the home.
‘Women leaders and those doing well in science-based professionals should be involved in this kind of campaign.’ she said.
The vice chancellor, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe while restating the speaker’s position noted that to achieve parity between both sexes in STEM education and careers, there must be holistic and integrated responses that cut across sectors, engage girls and women in identifying solutions to persistent challenges.
This also requires political will; strengthened capacity and investments to ignite girls’ interest and cultivate their aspirations to pursue further STEM studies and ultimately STEM careers.