Towards Closing the Gender Gap in Science, Technology and Innovation in Developing Countries: Side Event, 67th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
Dr Titilayo Adebola delivered a speech yesterday titled “Closing the Gender Gap in Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa” at a Side Event to the 67th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women organised by the Permanent Missions of Malawi and Nigeria to the United Nations, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and Renew Our Earth Inc.
In her speech, Dr Adebola recommends that African countries can address gender gaps in science, technology and innovation (STI) through what she coined an “AVIIM” framework. See excerpts below.
Awareness: we can raise awareness across the board. We can equip parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers and religious/traditional leaders with the tools and technologies required to encourage girls to study and enjoy STI courses. We can also teach girls and women the wide-ranging benefits of studying STI courses and registering/commercialising intellectual property rights through our school and university curricula.
Visibility: we can celebrate African women in STI disciplines to provide strong role models for girls and women. For example, on International Women’s Day, the African International Economic Law Network (AfIELN) celebrated two brilliant African women in STEM, Professor Folasade Ogunsola and Professor Nyovani Madise. Professor Ogunsola is a Professor of Medical Microbiology and the first female Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She has a degree in Medicine and Surgery and a PhD in Medical Microbiology. Professor Madise is the Director of Research for Sustainable Development Policies and Head of the Malawi Office of the African Institute for Development Policy. She has a degree in Mathematics and Economics, and a PhD in Social Statistics. Professor Madise received a honorary Doctor of Science degree (DSc) from the University of Aberdeen in 2016 for her outstanding contributions to research on healthcare in Africa. Furthermore, we can reverse stereotypes and biases through mass media by having women STI leads in folklores, cartoons, games and movies. We can have STI themed books, toys and costumes for girls.
Inclusive Work Environments: employers must acknowledge that societal structures in Africa allocate the primary caring responsibilities in families to women. While it is desirable to change this approach to responsibility allocation, it is recognised that the desired change cannot be achieved immediately. Accordingly, employers must meet women where they presently are. We can consciously create inclusive work environments that provide flexible working hours, maternity and medical leave, child friendly spaces and safe and sexual-harassment free spaces. We must also close gender pay gaps.
Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Research: investing in cutting edge STI and digital related research projects, start-ups and businesses in Africa will offer platforms and opportunities that can attract girls and women to these disciplines. These investments will also foster the development of creations and innovations that could qualify for intellectual property protection.”
Dr Adebola notes that while the AVIIM framework is no way exhaustive, it offers starting points for the much-needed transformations required to close the gender gap in STI in Africa.