Women empowered in science and technology

Women empowered in science and technology By Staff Reporter In recent years, there has been significant progress in closing the global gender gap in various aspects of society including the number of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers.

In many developing countries including Tanzania, the gap is still wide. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. The Data shows the extent to which these women work in the public, private or academic sectors and their fields of research.

To reduce the gender gap, stakeholders must identify the qualitative factors that deter women from pursuing STEM. Vodacom Tanzania PLC sustainable business strategy articulates its intent to deliver positive impact on women’s empowerment and youth skills development.

The leading telecom firm partnered with COSTECH in 2017 to introduce coding skills to local schoolgirls in order to develop computational and critical thinking skills.

“By empowering women and promoting gender equality, we can enable communities, and businesses including our own to prosper. By improving the diversity of workforce, we can better reflect on our customer and the wider society,” says Vodacom’s Head of Organizational Effectiveness, Zaitun Ally.

In 2017 Vodacom introduced the ‘#Codelikeagirl’ program in Tanzania with an aim to develop coding skills and valuable life skills for girls aged between 14-18 years.

The objective is to encourage more girls to consider uptake of ICT and STEM subjects. “The training is designed to give girls interest in a sector that is currently more popular with boys, helping widen their opportunities and increase their future career choices,” says Zaitun Ally.

The code like a girl program covers basic knowledge of computer languages and development programs including HTML, CSS, GitHub, and Bootstrap. The learning is facilitated in an interactive way that integrates life skills while developing code – enabling learners to develop their own website.

Zaitun says that “Coding forms the nuts and bolts of the digital workplace of the future. ‘Through the program, we hope to see more girls in the Tech industry. We are helping young people expand their skillset through technology to aid Tanzania’s sustainable development.

As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Vodacom’s purpose is to empower even more women and girls through digital solutions. “Doroles Mihanjo, one of the beneficiaries of the project explained, “After undertaking #Codelikeagirl training, I have developed an online app called Kitabu where people can buy education materials online.” Doroles is proud to gain confidence and exposure from the project, and currently supports the program as a co-coach.

Zainat and Fatuma also benefited from the program and have now team up to construct a website for their village. “Our aim is to use the knowledge we gained to generate income,” says Fatuma.

“Coding is becoming one of the most in-demand skills across industries as increasing number of businesses rely on computers. Half of all programming openings are in industries outside of technology, such as finance, healthcare and manufacturing.

Data from UNESCO reveal that men still dominate the number of STEM graduates in most countries. In 2014, around 22% of UK graduates in science, mathematics and computing were women.

The gap was wider in Germany (19.3%), France (21.5%) and Switzerland (14.7%). In the United States, women make up around a quarter of those in STEM occupations. This gender disparity is alarming, especially as STEM careers are often referred to as the jobs of the future – driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth, and sustainable development.

#Codelikeagirl is the largest international classroom-based global coding program that aims to equip girls with what is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand skills across industries.

Empowering women and helping young people increase their skillset through technology are two important areas of focus for Vodacom as part of the company’s 10 -year sustainable business goals. In 2019, Vodacom partnered with Tanzania Data Lab (dlab) to roll out the program into more regions of Tanzania and reach more girls.

“By 2025, Vodacom’s ambition is to be the best employer for women. The company targets to connect 50 million women living in emerging markets, to help improve their lives and livelihoods.” Zaitun concludes.

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