It is Time Now to STEM IT Up!

Posted May 14, 2015 from Papua New Guinea

You know the saying - Everything happens for a reason?Well, this year would be the year that evidently proves that it was no mistake that I was destined to take up Computer Science in University.No, it wasn't for me to become the best Computer Scientist in the world (or country) but for me to play an active role 11 years later to encourage and promote Computer Science and Information Technology to young girls and women.

"The Girls in ICT initiative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a global effort to raise awareness on empowering and encouraging girls and young women to consider studies and careers in ICTs. The initiative is committed to celebrating and commemorating the International Girls in ICT Day on the fourth Thursday of every April.These ongoing advances in ICTs effectively make digital literacy a prerequisite for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities and are leading to a projected shortage of at least 2 million ICT employees worldwide by 2020. Studies show that not enough young people are choosing careers in ICT - especially not enough young women. Expanding the global technology talent pool to include more women with ICT skills can help fill this gap. This means investing in girls and young women today. " from the Website

As the common thread reveals throughout the number of sites visited discussing this topic of Women and Science and Technology is the shortage, or under representation of them.

Discussing with the Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea, one the major Universities in Papua New Guinea, Mr. Vincent Malaibe, , he stated that there is a shortage of Scientists and Technologists. He believes the reason is because STEM is not considered as a priority area of Education and has not been promoted so to encourage. The emphasis has been on Agriculture and recently Entrepreneurship.As statistics shows in the NoCeilings STEM study it states that " in the subset of computer science, fewer than 20 percent of graduates worldwide are women."

Doing a rough estimate of the Science and Technical Courses in the University that I attended, in every Engineering stream ( Mining, Mechanical, Electrical) including Computer Science, the course started with about 5 girls compared to 20 boys being accepted and by the end of the course, after 4 years, only 2 of the 5 girls graduate.

There are so many girls taking up Business Courses, Administration and less technical courses.

I also was one of them such that in the 1st year, we started with 3 girls and 21 boys, and by Graduation time, 4 years later, I was the only girl graduating with 18 boys. Even in the work place, you end up being the only female in the IT department or as it is with organisations here, you are the sole IT person.

A post on the Colombian site states that: "It can get lonely," she said. "Sometimes you are the only woman in the room in meetings," she said. And hanging out with a colleague — say, going to a baseball game with a guy — can be awkward or give the appearance of impropriety.

What can we do about it?

This is where such events such as Girls In ICT Day come in and networks created such as the Women In STEM PNG Network. We need to start making more 'noise' in this area to show that we can do it, and are capable of achieving greatly and find ways of encouraging girls to take up Computer Science and other STEM courses.

Girls In ICTechWeek

For the first time, in our province, the GirlsInICTechWeek was initiated which introduces young girls to different areas of ICT. You can read about it in my previous post. Giving them the opportunity to also have a go with coding, developing their databases, networking concepts, web and internet technology and create their blogs. A mixture of introducing Digital Literacy and at the same time teaching them how to 'create' Digital applications.

From the response and evaluation of the TechWeek Program, the 20 female participants were very interested and some are considering taking up Computer Science.

It was a bonus when the ICT licensing authority (National Information Communication Technology Authority) made know that starting next year, they will be introducing a Scholarship Scheme for 5 girls who pursue ICT degree programs at recognised institutions within the Country. This news was received with a lot of excitement and encouraged them to do well. NICTA who sat in during the TechWeek Program, after analysing the program and the success of it, may roll it out in the other main centres of the country.

Organisations being more receptive to Female STEM Workers

"The No. 1 thing tech companies can do "is to create a welcoming and supportive environment within the company for female engineers," said Ed Lazowska, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. "All of the outreach programs in the world for K-12 and college students, all of the advertising campaigns, all of the articles in the press, all of these together will not make nearly as big a difference as a visibly supportive corporate culture would make."

For me, leaving fulltime employment and venture into freelance ICT services, is challenging, especially being a woman - people still having that mentality that technical work is for the guys and wondering if you will do a good job. At other times, they doubt that you can do the job, that they are more comfortable getting the male counterparts to do it.PNG Women In STEM NetworkA new network is in the process of coming together, as we start to identify women in these fields. We are so few and scattered, that there seems to be just a handful, but through this network, it is hope that the one or two will come together to make a stronger cluster, thanks to Ms Priscilla Kevin on taking up this initiative as posted here.

May we all come together to be the voice and make the noise to let people know that iit is time now for us women to STEM IT UP! :D

The Path to Participation Initiative from World Pulse and No Ceilings

Comments 2

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Alyssa Rust
May 18, 2015
May 18, 2015

Dear Carlepng,

Thank you so much for sharing you story about getting involved in computer science and the promotion of girls in tech. I enjoyed reading about girls in ICTech week and about different ways to get women involved in more in STEM. It is so important that girls and women are supported and are given the opportunity to be involved in STEM education. Thanks again for sharing.

Sincerely, Alyssa Rust 

Busayo Obisakin
May 19, 2015
May 19, 2015

Yes, I agree with you my sister, the time is now to STEM it up. I work in a university and I know what you are talking about because in the admission list girls are not always up to 10% in most cases. I think it has a lot to do with the stereotypical attitude towards the professions that only men could be in technology. We need to do a lot of work in raising the awareness among our girls that it is a wrong notion to say only males could cope in Technology courses. I want to say it is improving now a days but we need to do more. Thank you for this wonderful piece!

warmest Busayo