Low enrolment numbers among women in the field of STEM has been identified as the key challenge to ensuring maximum participation of females in the energy sector in a Digital Energy Festival session held on 29 October.
The session Utilising STEM initiatives to empower women in the energy sector was hosted by the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency.
The discussion explored the main challenges behind the failure in the increase in females embarking in STEM careers and how can the challenges be addressed from a social, political and policy perspective.
Social and political stereotypes discouraging women to embark in STEM programmes is resulting in very little to no women seeking careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related studies in Nigeria.
Olabode Adeniyi, resident engineer/consultant at the Rural Electrification Agency said socially, parents should encourage the participation of women in male-dominated sectors such as engineering and other science-related initiatives.
Politically and from a policy perspective, he called for the enactment of policies that would allow financial support for the girl child wanting to engage in STEM programmes.
He said government initiatives should be designed to boost the confidence of women to participate in male-dominated industries.
“Governments should target increasing the passion of renewable energy amongst women through rewarding and touting their success.
“The passion for social impact should drive students into the industry but this starts with the governments removing barriers to women engagement.”
Anita Otubu, head of programme management unit at the Nigerian Electrification Programme (NEP), who was also a speaker, said what motivates her is “having other female role models in the field who are able to contribute to change the world.
She said “the need to improve access to power in Nigeria,” is one of the key reasons that made her seek a career in energy.
Francisca Nneka Okeke, director at Institute of Climate Change Studies Energy and the Environment-UNN, wrote “It is clear that some dedicated and committed women lack confidence in themselves. We also see that there is both a lack of opportunity and, in many cases, encouragement from those around them.”
Opening new doors requires a range of shifts in both mindset and, in some cases, culture. STEM policymakers do not involve women in developing STEM policies, she said.
Looking ahead, strategies that could be employed to attract more women and girls to STEM include:
- Encouraging women in STEM to engage in international and national collaborative scientific research, particularly with more advanced countries.
- Involving female scientists in Nigeria in the development of STEM policies.
- Encouraging young girls to develop an interest in STEM and empowering women through ICT.
- Exploring online engagement to strengthen participation and awareness.
- Sponsoring women to participate in STEM workshops, conferences, seminars and exhibitions.
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The Digital Energy Festival is hosted jointly by four of Clarion Events’ leading energy brands Africa Energy Forum, African Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa and the Oil & Gas Council’s Africa Assembly and the leading energy journalESI Africaproviding six weeks of compelling content until 26 November.