We gear up girls for a future in the sciences
February 11 marks the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science - a topic very close to SITA’s heart and commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals of Quality Education and Gender Equality.
Today, less than 30 per cent of scientific researchers worldwide are women. According to UNESCO data (2014 - 2016), only around 30 per cent of all female students select science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields in higher education. This is a global issue where cultural bias, gender stereotypes and access to knowledge all play their parts in these disappointing numbers. Each country has its own unique challenges and barriers, but the overall effect is missed opportunities for deserving girls - and our society as a whole.
Equipping labs of opportunity
Teaching science is a huge challenge across schools in Sub-Saharan Africa, where lack of suitable facilities or equipment means classes are heavily theoretical and hard for students to engage with. Learning and achievement in the sciences therefore generally trails far behind other subjects.
Our charity partner Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS ) recognizes the need for science to be accessible as part of the curriculum, making sure that schools have the right equipment, training teachers to run hands-on, stimulating science practicals, and - where possible - building laboratories at their schools.
In 2019, the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation is supporting PEAS by funding the construction of a brand new and purpose built ICT and science block at PEAS George Secondary School in Zambia. At 61%, the majority of students here are girls, and this new facility will ensure they have access to essential science and ICT learning.
This new project is an exciting development for PEAS and the Foundation, as we are helping to broaden awareness and understanding of both science and technology subjects for young students, and the opportunities it may afford them in the future.
Across the Atlantic Ocean in Atlanta we are also working to develop a passion for STEM in young girls. Our team in Atlanta have been helping the girl scouts achieve newly introduced badges in cybersecurity. In 2018, the American Girl Scouts announced a range of new STEM badges available exclusively to girls focused on both soft and hard skills equipping them to improve the world. In a country where only 29% of the science and engineering workforce comprises women, these badges widen horizons.
The new Cybersecurity badge introduces girls to age-appropriate online safety and privacy principles, information on how the internet works, and how to spot and investigate cybercrime. The SITA team in Atlanta hosted girls from Scout troop 1980 and took them through on-site training to help them achieve their progressive badges from Basics to Safeguards to Investigator. After the visit, 10 girls earned their Cybersecurity Investigator badges.
The scout troop put their learning to good use, sending the Atlanta team an encrypted Christmas card for deciphering! Our Atlanta team know their stuff. They managed to decipher the Christmas card created by the cyber scouts after their visit.
Marie Curie famously said that science was “essentially international”. And while girls face different challenges from Atlanta to Zambia in accessing a future in STEM, our end goal at the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation is the same: encouraging more girls and women in accessing STEM knowledge and opportunities – while ensuring that “No one is left behind”.