South Africa has made great strides towards more equitable gender representation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) over the past decade, meaning that there has never been a better time for young women to consider a career in STEM-related fields. That’s especially the case with the shortage of skills in STEM in South Africa.
A career in STEM is an opportunity to create a prosperous future, solve some of the world’s most challenging problems and embark on an intellectually fulfilling career that offers many paths to growth and development, says Monica Luwes, Manager of the Graduate Centre at Sasol Corporate Bursary Services.
Companies with career opportunities in STEM fields can help attract more women to the field by providing mentorship and training opportunities as well as promoting STEM careers to girls and women.
Says Luwes: “We have seen steady growth in the numbers of women considering a career in STEM over the past few years, with many of the structural barriers to them studying STEM-related degrees falling away. However, we could do even more to attract women to STEM careers, given that they account for only 32% of South Africa’s STEM graduates, according to UNESCO.”
One challenge that South Africa still faces is that many girls drop out of secondary education. A lower proportion of those who complete high school earn pass grades in Mathematics and Science when compared to boys. According to the World Bank, 50.3% of girls achieved 30% or higher in Mathematics in the National Senior Certificate Examination versus 58.6% of boys.
Another challenge lies in a lack of role models for learners from underrepresented or formerly marginalised communities, including women.
Employers in the sector should lead the way in addressing unconscious biases and stereotyping that favour men in STEM careers, says Luwes.
They also need to nurture inclusivity to ensure that women have the chance to make an impact and remain in the field of study and their jobs.
Luwes says that attracting more women into STEM is vital in creating a more inclusive and equal society, especially in a world where automation is putting many traditional jobs at risk.
Furthermore, tapping into the potential of young women is key to stimulating economic growth.
Nurturing diversity also helps to spark innovation by bringing different perspectives to the table when solving problems and creating opportunities.
STEM skills rank highly on the Department of Home Affairs’ Critical Skills list, gazetted in February 2022, indicating that there is not enough supply of these skills in the market to address demand. Bringing more young women into STEM-related studies and careers is essential in addressing this challenge.
She adds: “With a severe shortfall of STEM skills in South Africa, ambitious young learners have the opportunity to enter a field that promises a long and fruitful career. STEM-related fields offer young women enormous opportunities for personal growth and advancement. They also offer stimulation and the chance to play a part in solving challenges like climate change and energy security.”
Sasol, regarded as the employer of choice in the Chemical & Pharmaceuticals sector in SAGEA’s employer awards, is inviting high-performing Mathematics and Science learners currently in Grade 12 to apply for all-inclusive bursaries to study Engineering and Science degrees at approved public universities and Universities of Technology.
· Register online here.
· Answer a few questions regarding your field and level of study.
· Log in and fill in an online application.
· Alternatively, you can find more information on how to apply here.
Applications close 27 May 2022.