Meeting with Women in STEM from around Africa April 20, 2012Posted by Connie Chow in Executive Director Musings, STEM pipeline efforts, women in science.
Tags: africa, STEM
Earlier this week, I met with four scientists and engineers from Africa, who were here in the United States for the first time, as part of the Department of State’s International Visitors Leadership Program, hosted by WorldBoston.
They included Ms. Kobamelo DIKGOLA, Principal Hydrological Engineer, Department of Water Affairs, from Botswana; Ms. Ayuni Segum FAI, Operations and Maintenance Supervisor, MTN Cameroon (a communications company); Ms. Josephine Aku Holanyo ECKLU, Teaching Assistant, Department of Food Process Engineering, University of Ghana; and Mrs. Celestina Nkem STEVE-OBIAGO, Founder/ Chief Executive Officer, Sonec Confectionaries in Nigeria.
Sister Ann Fox of the Paraclete Academy, who has been working on a STEM school for girls in Rwanda for the last decade, joined us. Sister Fox and I discussed with them how they can design and adapt similar programs back in their countries.
As a handful of women in science and engineering in their own communities, they were highly aware of the need to attract and mentor more young women into these fields, and were particularly interested in learning about our programs here and in Ghana. In fact, both Ms. Ecklu and Ms. Steve-Obiago already mentor young women, in academics and in entrepreneurship. They were particularly interested in shared curricula ideas and I also shared some books from Sally Ride Science, which they eagerly accepted.
The larger issues of gender stereotyping and class were much more pronounced in their home countries, and formed major barriers to getting girls and young women interested in science and other male-dominated fields. They agreed that building girls’ confidence is a key step in sustaining their efforts, and role models and practical experience are essential in fueling their interest.
Much to my delight, I discovered that Ms. Josephine volunteers with the Ghana Sustainable Aid Project in Pokuase, where we have Science Clubs. We will definitely see each other again!