I want to be an engineer. Can I be one?
The world of science, technology and engineering is in need of more women. At a time when technology is advancing apace, only 28% of the world’s researchers are women. There are numerous opportunities ahead and women cannot afford to be left behind.
Natural sciences, engineering, technology and mathematics are, by tradition, male areas, or, at least, that is what we are brought up to think. Career stereotypes for women abound on what they can or not pursue. Accounts and sums, they tell us, are for men. Letters and literature, for women. From a very early age, girls find themselves confronted with such assertions, whether professed by their families, their friends or even at school. The result is that their self-confidence dips and their choices narrow.
These stereotypes are leaving deep scars on the educational experiences of women around the world. Angola is no exception: here, only 7% of women in higher education have opted for courses in Engineering, Technology, Natural Sciences or Mathematics. According to the Global Gender Report 2017, there are three times more boys on such courses.
As many studies have pointed out, there is absolutely no biological justification for this difference. The causes appear to be more socially rooted, inside the family and the school system. As a trained engineer, it is hard for me to see so many young people giving up on their dreams because they think that this is not what is expected of them. Because they feel obliged to take a different role in society.
We can all begin to change the way we think. We need to start doing this inside our homes and within our communities. We know that girls are particularly influenced by their mothers, which is why we have the power to smash gender stereotypes and encourage our daughters to take “difficult” courses. We see that they can achieve so much more. We must get our teachers to believe in the potential of our girls as much as they do in our boys. We want them to be a positive influence and ensure girls learn actual and practical science.
Any inclusive and advanced society relies on all its members contributing what they can. Furthermore, the great opportunities of the future are all going to revolve around technological development and women must be a part of this transformation. They must not be shoved to the sidelines of progress. Progress is a story that has to be told by all, men and women.