The Department of Mathematics Education, University of Education, Winneba (UEW), has held a day’s workshop for females in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), at the School of Creative Arts Conference Room. The workshop, which was also on Zoom, drew some presenters and participants across West Africa.
It was under the theme "Evidence-based Approach to Bridging the Gender Gap in STEM". The forum presented an opportunity to rethink the challenges exacerbating the gender gap in the scientific and academic communities. The forum also aimed to enable participants to conduct joint research on innovative ways to ensure gender parity in STEM across West Africa.
Dr. Peter Akayuure and Ms. Dorcas Attuabea Addo, lecturers at the Department of Mathematics Education and members of the STEM Working Group, initiated the workshop, having secured funding from the Committee for Women in Mathematics under the International Mathematics Union.
Dr. Peter Akayuure (top left), Ms. Dorcas Attuabea Addo (top right), Mrs. Nelly Sakyi Hagan (bottom left) and Dr. Nana Akosua Owusu-Ansah
Dr. Akayuure disclosed that the dominance of STEM in the world and the transition toward artificial intelligence, robotics, and manufacturing informed their decision to organise the workshop to enable educators to spearhead the whole process of revolutionalising the education curriculum to conform to the trend.
He underscored STEM as an integrated process rather than isolated elements. Dr. Akayuure emphasised that the workshop was to help develop 21st-century skills with a focus on artificial intelligence, robotics, and manufacturing in young minds for economic transformation.
"Here at our university, we want to look at how to nurture our students to also go out and nurture young minds in sync with 21st-century skills in artificial intelligence, robotics, and manufacturing. The idea is to discuss issues relating to STEM and build documentation that will lead to bridging the gap between males and females in STEM activities," he revealed.
On her part, Ms. Dorcas Attuabea Addo looked forward to the workshop being sustained over a long time and hoped that, even though the project is all about bridging the gender gap, it would have the support of both males and females.
Prof. Samuel Asiedu-Addo (up left), Prof. Ruby Hanson (up right), Prof. Victor Antwi (down left) and Dr. Jones Apawu
The Dean, School of Graduate Studies, UEW, Prof. Samuel Asiedu-Addo, represented the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Mawutor Avoke, as the guest of honour. He lauded the Government for introducing important initiatives that would help discover a new workforce of problem-solvers, innovators, and inventors equipped with the knowledge and skills to innovate and compete in the new global market space.
“There cannot be any meaningful development in any area of our national endeavour without good knowledge of STEM,” he affirmed.
Prof. Aseidu-Addo implored stakeholders to create the necessary environment to motivate, inform and propel the participation of girls in STEM-based programmes at an early age and with the use of successful females in STEM as role models.
The Chairperson of the workshop, Prof. Ruby Hanson, highlighted the importance of STEM to the attainment of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. "Literature shows that about 47% of the world’s population is in STEM fields and it is projected to be a big issue in the sustenance of jobs in a few years to come."
Prof. Ruby Hanson urged participants to take STEM more seriously and work together to tear down the notion that it is a male-dominated field. "I entreat you to take this workshop very seriously because it is now a pathway to truly understanding what it is to say one is STEM-integrated."
The Dean, Faculty of Science Education, Prof. Victor Antwi, advocated support for women to excel in STEM fields. “We need to go back into our culture to change things because most of our problems are culture-based. We need to present STEM as an everyday thing.”
Head of Department, Mathematics Education, Dr. Jones Apawu, commended the Planning Committee Chairman, Prof. Samuel Kwesi Asiedu-Addo, and the initiators for putting a great deal of work into the planning of the workshop.
From top L-R: Mrs. Mabel Judith Micah, Dr. Mercy Nyamekye, Prof. Charles K. Assuah and Prof. Christopher K. Okpoti
The Effutu Municipal Director of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Mrs. Mabel Judith Micah, urged policymakers to include implementor input in the design of STEM-based programmes to ensure practicability and ease of implementation.
The Director for Research at the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NaCCA), Dr. Mercy Nyamekye, advised participants, particularly student-teachers, to apply the pedagogies and approaches to STEM gleaned from the workshop to promote economic growth. "This indicates that, whether you are teaching mathematics or any other STEM-based subject, you must contextualise your instruction to provide real-life context. It becomes a significant challenge if this is absent."
Speaking on the topic of “Global Networking and Mentoring for Females in Mathematics,” Prof. Deborah O. Ajayi of the University of Ibadan, averred that networking increases visibility and access to human, information, and other resources. She urged female mathematicians to connect with people, the African Women in Mathematics Association (AWMA), and other professional mathematical organisations to meet their career development needs and proactively build connections with potential mentors. She insisted that mentoring exposes young girls to role models who inspire and encourage them to believe in their abilities, bridging the gender gap.
Prof. Deborah Olufunmilayo Makinde, Department of Mathematics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, who spoke on “Feminism: The Magic of STEM,” noted that governments need to make the teaching and learning of STEM attractive by providing critical funding for infrastructure and the necessary support. She emphasised the importance of a committed spirit and attitude in generating interest and producing better results for females in STEM education.
From top L-R: Dr. (Mrs) Gloria Armah, Dr. Mercy Badu, Prof. Deborah Olufunmilayo Makinde and Prof. Deborah O. Ajayi
Dr. (Mrs) Gloria Armah, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Mathematics Education, and Head of Department, Health Education, UEW, also addressed participants on the topic of “Challenges Faced by Females in Pursuing Mathematics-related Careers”. She said that females in the STEM fields need to be modelled by fellow females who are already thriving in the field to provide them with the needed inspiration and self-assurance they need to reach new heights.
Dr. Mercy Badu, Senior Lecturer from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana, on “Innovative Approaches to Addressing the Gender Gap in STEM,” called on corporate entities in the technology industry to invest in STEM education to help equip beneficiaries to enable them to meet the skill set requirements of their organisations and enhance their employability by bridging the STEM divide that exists in the age of rapidly changing trends and technology.
Also present were the Dean of the Centre for International Programmes (CIP), UEW, Prof. Charles K. Assuah; former Dean of the School of Business, UEW, Prof. Christopher K. Okpoti; and lecturers in the Faculty of Science Education who brought valuable insight to the conversation. The workshop was moderated by Dr. Nana Akosua Owusu-Ansah and Mrs. Nelly Sakyi Hagan.