Being a girl in the tech space has its ups and downs. The glaring gender disparities can be frustrating, but for Martha Annan who just matriculated with hopes of becoming a programmer, her joy in being one of the five females in her class of 26 students pursuing a degree in Information Technology at the Wisconsin University in Accra is obvious.
“I am forever grateful for the TechGirls Project and the supportive communities I have found through the Peace Innovation Foundation”
“Interestingly, I never appreciated the severity of the gender disparity prior to coming to Wisconsin University to pursue a degree in IT. However, when I trace back to see what the reason for the low enrolment of girls in STEM-related courses could be, I settled on low motivation for STEM and high financial requirements.
For example, in my case, just after paying admission fees, I was required to own a high specification laptop which is the basic tool I needed to become a programmer which I doubt I could have afforded within the time I had. My scholarship package under the TechGirls Project enabled me, for instance, to receive a laptop for my practical work. Without the TechGirls scholarship, I would not have been able to pursue studying IT because of the cost”.
There are many reasons why the gender gap in STEM exists especially in Africa.
One is a pipeline issue – fewer girls than boys choose to study STEM subjects in secondary school making it difficult for them to apply for STEM-related courses at university.
Another key reason is the high financial requirement for STEM-related courses right from secondary school to university level. In the case of Ghana, it will be interesting to check whether more girls are choosing STEM subjects at the secondary school level, especially now that secondary education is ‘free’ and parents regardless of their economic background do not have to pay for tuition at this level.
This could change the gender dynamics in the STEM space especially at the university level where there are projects (TechGirls) and other funding opportunities for girls pursuing degrees in technology.