by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG – GLOBAL statistics show that 80 percent of jobs created in the next decade will require some combination of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.
Yet, only 30 percent of the science and technology workforce is currently comprised of women.
It is against the backdrop of this disparity that a global technology company in the payments industry, Mastercard, recently hosted its first digital Girls4Tech Connect Marathon in Sub-Saharan Africa to inspire and prepare 515 girls aged between 7-12 to pursue careers in science and technology.
Launched in 2014, Mastercard’s signature Girls4Tech is centered on a unique, interactive STEM curriculum that aims to impact five million girls globally by 2025.
Based on global science and maths standards, it incorporates Mastercard’s deep expertise in technology and innovation, enabling students to discover a range of STEM careers, such as fraud detective, data scientist and software engineer.
It started as a hands-on, in-person session run by employee volunteers but has expanded to cover topics such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a global surge in online learning.
As part of the virtual marathon, Mastercard volunteers from across Africa hosted a series of virtual Girls4Tech sessions at schools in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa to help equip girls with the foundational STEM knowledge and skills needed for their studies and career success.
“At Mastercard we are tackling this challenge (gender gap in STEM) head on,” Kamini Redhi, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Mastercard, Sub-Saharan Africa, assured.
Through Girls4Tech, Mastercard’s goal is to build foundational STEM knowledge and develop the critical skills girls need for their studies and career success.
“By providing real life and hands-on activities for each concept, Mastercard volunteers show young girls that being friendly, enthusiastic, mathematical, artistic, scientific, logical, and even creative are all skills that connect to a STEM career,” Redhi said.
The primary schools selected for this Girls4Tech marathon have prioritised STEM subjects as part of their curriculum and are excited to participate in the initiative.
School principals welcome the empowerment of girls through the project.
“We’ve noted that young girls still believe that careers in STEM are not meant for them,” said Bongani Mgoqi, principal at Tshedimosho Mahlaleng Primary in Soweto, South Africa.
Hannah Umoh, Programme Manager at the Government Primary School in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria, said, “We want our girls to have confidence in their ability to succeed in STEM related careers and to recognise that they can achieve anything.”
Daniel Muthee, Principal at Woodcreek School in Nairobi, Kenya, concurred.
“Girls4Tech is an important initiative to exposing our girls to the digital future,” he added.
Girls4Tech programme has already reached more than 2 million girls across 49 countries including more than 2 500 in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
– CAJ News