Diversity in STEM: Women in Technical Frontiers

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Awa Conteh, TAT Women in STEM Columnist 

By: Awa Conteh 

The underrepresentation of women in technical roles remains a persistent challenge within STEM. While progress has been made, women are still disproportionately placed in supportive roles, often overshadowed in key technical areas.

 In this week’s episode, we shall explore this gender gap across various sectors within STEM, encouraging women to break free from traditional molds, continuously enhance their skills, and emphasize the pivotal role of stakeholders in fostering an inclusive environment. In sectors ranging from software development to surgery, the landscape is marked by a disparity that calls for a collective effort to break down barriers and pave the way for Gambian women to thrive in key technical roles.

Traditionally, Gambian women have often found themselves confined to secretarial roles within STEM fields, overlooking the vast opportunities in technical areas. Whether it’s the scarcity of women in software development, the limited presence in surgical theatres, or the underrepresentation in architectural design, these challenges reflect deep-rooted societal norms that dictate where women “belong.” It’s time to challenge these norms and encourage women to explore and excel in technical domains, dismantling stereotypes that hinder their progress.

In technology, women are scarce in key technical roles such as software development, cyber security, data science, artificial intelligence, etc. The journey begins with inspiring exploration. Women should be encouraged to embrace programming and other technical skills as tools for creativity, problem-solving, and empowerment. Whether through coding boot camps or online courses, continuous learning and skill enhancement are essential for women to thrive as technical experts. The tech industry in The Gambia should actively promote inclusivity, offering mentorship programs and creating environments where women can contribute their expertise.

In the medical field, male surgeons often dominate the operating rooms, with women more commonly seen in supporting roles. Breaking into surgical areas involves challenging preconceptions and fostering an environment that recognizes the potential of female surgeons. Aspiring women in surgery should focus on skill development, seek mentorship from experienced professionals, and actively participate in programs that encourage their inclusion in critical roles. Hospitals and medical institutions should champion diversity, providing equal opportunities and creating a culture that values the contributions of women in surgical fields.

Architecture, a field where creativity meets functionality, witnesses fewer Gambian women at the forefront of design. Encouraging women to pursue architectural careers requires nurturing a passion for design thinking and breaking the mold of predefined roles. Women architects should continuously refine their skills, stay informed about evolving design trends, and actively seek opportunities for professional growth. Architecture firms and educational institutions play a pivotal role in creating an inclusive environment, fostering diversity in design teams, and providing platforms for women to showcase their architectural brilliance.

In the expansive fields of engineering – civil, mechanical, or electrical – Gambian women face challenges in breaking through to critical technical roles. Women should focus on honing their technical skills and staying abreast of industry advancements to engineer a diverse future. Employers and educational institutions should actively promote diversity in engineering teams, providing mentorship initiatives and creating inclusive environments where women can excel as engineers.

These are just a few examples. Although the narratives are gradually changing, the pace is slow. Women must still be represented in many other fields, such as geology, astronomy, robotics, physics, and advanced mathematics.

Realizing the transformation needed in Gambian STEM requires the active involvement of stakeholders. Educational institutions, employers, government bodies, and community leaders must collaborate to shape inclusive environments that empower Gambian women in technical fields. This involves implementing policies that promote inclusivity, providing mentorship programs, offering equal opportunities for career advancement, and actively challenging gender biases within organizational structures.

The underrepresentation of Gambian women in technical areas within STEM is a challenge that demands a collective commitment to change. Gambian women are urged to explore these technical frontiers, breaking down barriers through continuous skill improvement and a resilient pursuit of excellence. By challenging stereotypes, fostering a supportive environment, and embracing growth opportunities, Gambian women can carve their paths in these seemingly “no-go areas.”

The path to an inclusive future in Gambian STEM is illuminated by the joint efforts of individuals, educational institutions, employers, and policymakers. Together, as architects of change, we can create a landscape where the brilliance of every Gambian woman shines brightly in technical areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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