Social Services Ministry uses STEM Competition to help bridge gender divide in sciences

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Governor General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Cornelius A. Smith, O.N., (seated centre) flanked by Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell (left) and Director of the Department of Gender and Family Affairs, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, Dr. Jacinta Higgs at Friday’s Girls in Science Awards Ceremony held in the Ballroom of Government House, Mount Fitzwilliam. They are accompanied by some of the participants in the 2020 International Day of Women and Girls in Science video competition. The competition was a collaboration between the Ministry, its Department of Gender and Family Affairs and Urban Renewal Commission, and FEM STEM, a female Non-governmental Organization (NGO) that promotes young women in the sciences. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

The jobs of the future will be driven by technology and innovation and if the gender divide in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is not bridged soon, that gap is likely to widen, Minister of Social Services an Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie Campbell, said recently. Addressing the Ministry’s Girls in Science Awards Ceremony held in the Ballroom, Government House, Mount Fitzwilliam, Minister Campbell said the futures of global economies are vested in STEM-related jobs. “The jobs of tomorrow lie within the STEM-related field as more and more jobs and career paths are demanding persons with scientific and technical knowledge and expertise,” Minister Campbell said. “As a result, students who specialize in these areas stand to not only be able to make meaningful contributions to their societies and/or countries, but to also earn competitive salaries.

“Here in The Bahamas, as we face the increasing threat of climate change which is changing our world right before our very eyes, we need our women and girls, working shoulder-to-shoulder with our men and boys, equally involved in leading the charge to pave the way forward; to level the playing field and balance the decision-making process. We need women and girls branching out into the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths.” Minister Campbell said the global community has made “a lot of effort” in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science over the past 15 years, yet women and girls continue to be excluded, or are excluding themselves, from participating fully in science. The Social Services Minister said long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science-related fields.

Minister Campbell further said studies suggest that 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not yet exist – many of them in the STEM-related field. “While more girls are attending school than before, girls are significantly under-represented in STEM subjects in many settings and they appear to lose interest in STEM subjects as they reach adolescence. Long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science-related fields,” Minister Campbell added. Hosted by His Excellency, the Most Hon. Cornelius A. Smith, O.N., Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Awards Ceremony was the result of a competition commemorating International Day of Women and Girls in Science – a United Nations celebration – that is observed annually in early February.

The 2020 video competition was a collaboration between the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, its Department of Gender and Family Affairs and the Urban Renewal Commission, and Fem STEM, a female Non-governmental Organization that promotes young women in science. FEM-STEM was founded by Mrs. Tyrhonda Glinton. Minister Campbell said according to data from the United Nation’s Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) only around 30 per cent of all female students globally selected STEM-related fields in higher education. The data, Minister Campbell continued, also indicated that female enrollment in the natural sciences, mathematics and statistics was at 5 per cent and in engineering, manufacturing and construction, the figure stood at 8 per cent. Female students’ enrolment in ICT was “particularly low” at 3 per cent.

Minister Campbell said that in 2015, world leaders agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Number Five of which is: “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and to Goal Nine, which is: “To build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.” He said, The Bahamas, along with other countries, pledged to meet these Goals, or at least make progress towards achieving them. “Actually, it would be good for us to not only celebrate women and girls who are leading innovation for us as a country, but to remove the barriers that hold our women and girls back from achieving the goals. It is my hope that by 2030 when The Bahamas gives a report on our progress towards reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we will be able to show that Goals 5 and 9 which are ‘gender equality and industry, innovation and infrastructure’ have been met.”

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