Following the hugely successful “Invent it, Built It” project embarked upon by the Association of Professionals Women Engineers in Nigeria, (APWEN), the Association have taken a notch further by flagging-off a new initiative which is intended to complement the Invent it Built it project. Tagged, SheEngineer, the new project is targeting secondary and university students in a bid to advance the career of girl-child in STEM career.
During the event which held in Lagos at the conference Hall of Digital Bridge Institute, the President of the Association, Engr. Fumilola Ojelade said the programme is aimed at strengthening APWEN’s determination to to promote diversity and advocacy for the girl-child to enroll in STEM subjects. She also announced that over 500 STEM teachers in public secondary schools in the six geo- political zones of the country would be trained to boost their capacity as part of the event which is sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK under their Global Challenges Research Fund GCRF African Catalyst programme and also had partners as on the project.
Speaking at the event, Engr. Funmilola Odelade, said: “We need to demystify mathematics by ensuring the teachers have the capacity to transfer the skills to the students. We would train 200 teachers in female secondary schools and students in public secondary schools across the geopolitical zones in the country.
“The aim of the SHEENGINEER programme is to increase local engineering capacity. APWEN will execute the SHEENGINEER programme by training female engineers and STEM teachers. This will help to promote STEM and ultimately increase the female engineers in sub-Saharan Africa to solve Africa’s problem,” she said.
Project Director/Grant Awardee, Engr. Dr. Felicia Agubata, at the flag-off of the programme explaining the rationale behind the initiative noted that Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM, perhaps also the most-male dominated profession in Nigeria with women making up only 13 per cent of the engineering workforce.
She said: “When it comes to studying STEM subjects at school, male and female are virtually at par in terms of performance. Unfortunately, this parity doesn’t always carry over into the professional world thus leading to a significant gender gap in the science and technology workforce.”
Agubata said women bring critical insights and game-changing perspectives to the table. She added that equal representation is important in engineering, as engineers design products and solve problems that affect humanity.
“Imagine the greater advances that could occur in engineering if men and women were working consistently together and using all the skill sets in the pool,” Agubata observed.
She recommended the need to investigate what deters young women from pursuing STEM careers, and also take a closer look at how to encourage secondary school girls to follow their dreams and flairs with regards to the Sciences. According to her, this would introduce a broader range of knowledge and ideas when developing STEM innovations, which would help remove perceived gender role barriers.
Speaking to a group of students from various schools at the event, the Guest Speaker at the event Mrs. Ibiene Okeleke noted that from her experience as a HR practitioner, female engineers are usually better in qualification exercise, adding that the best time to be a female is today.
“Now male-owned companies tell us they want more female recruits because there are three things women bring which is detailing, multitasking and creativity,” she said.
Okeleke charged the girl child to have no fears, as mathematics is not a difficult subject, adding that engineering is a vast discipline that could create multiple opportunities. She advised women to do their best and be ready to confront difficulties and be determined.
APWEN also emphasised the need to bridge the gender gap in engineering as it was noted that girls were deterred from entering the STEM workforce due to outdated stereotypes that exist today. The Association have been massively investing in the capacity building of girl child from primary schools to tertiary while also en encouraging the more roles for the practicing engineers in the industry.
The grant awarded to APWEN was under the United Kingdom Global Challenges Research Fund (GCFR). GCFR aims to strengthen engineering bodies in sub – Saharan Africa; promote the profession and increase local engineering capacity to drive development.