Fintech specialist e4 has launched a Girls in STEM programme to provide girls in underprivileged areas with the support they need to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) post matric.
Cognisant of the gender imbalance present in the science and technology industries worldwide, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, e4 says it approached the Melisizwe Computer Lab Project, a nonprofit that provides schools in need with computer labs and information technology skills training, for help with this initiative, with the end goal of uplifting underprivileged female youth and addressing the shortage of female participants in STEM careers.
The programme aims to bring resources to society’s most vulnerable and marginalised group – young, previously disadvantaged females.
“With the rise of tech in today's society, it is crucial that we invest more into STEM education for girls to be able to pursue a sustainable and meaningful career path,” e4 human resources and transformation executive Ntombi Mphokane emphasises.
With the digital age being here, and technology ever changing, Mphokane says people are being left behind owing to a lack of access to computers and associated skills.
Many students have no access to computers and matriculate without knowing how to use a computer or how to type out a curriculum vitae and apply for employment. “That is an issue that will only grow in time if not addressed now,” she says.
Officially launched in August, Women’s Month, Girls in STEM is an after-school programme designed to pique girl learners’ interest and motivate them to take up STEM subjects in Grade 10.
It introduces female learners to STEM concepts in Grade 9, the crucial year before maths and science are dropped by girls as they are viewed by many as boys’ subjects.
This misconception can be attributed to a lack of support from parents and teachers, minimal exposure to the different careers women can enter with STEM subjects, a lack of female role models in these spheres and a lack of awareness of the ability of technology to transform systems and lives, e4 notes.
The programme is currently recruiting girls from two different schools in Gauteng that the Melisizwe Computer Lab Project has previously worked with.
Girls are selected based on their attitude and aptitude and given technical training in science, maths, engineering, end-user computing, software development and robotics.
Integral to the success of the programme is the mentorship offered by e4 personnel and other passionate women in the STEM industry, and the assistance given with personal development, the company points out.
The programme will run from Grade 9 until the year after matric, after which the aim is that girls take up careers or further education in STEM.