Current developments in the global economy indicate that more employers are increasingly embracing science and technology in order to make the delivery of goods and services more efficient.
The oil and gas industry is one of the key sectors that heavily depends on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The operations under this sector requires people with STEM background to research and develop innovative products and technological energy solutions for the common good of humanity.
It is therefore imperative that we encourage the study of STEM to prepare students towards meeting the demands of a tech-driven economy in the coming years.
However, despite efforts made over the years to narrow the gender gap in STEM education, major inequalities persist. Girls are significantly under-represented in STEM subjects and fields in many settings and this could be associated with socio-cultural factors.
Global Perspective on Girls in STEM
According to a UNESCO report titled “Cracking the code: girls’ and women’s education in STEM”, the gender disparity in STEM education is striking. In higher education, only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female. Women continue to drop out of STEM disciplines in disproportionate numbers during their higher education studies, while transitioning to the world of work and even during their career cycle.
STEM Breakfast Meeting
In line with the Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 17, Vivo Energy Ghana, the Shell licensee, in partnership with the African Business Centre for Development Education (ABCDE) organised a breakfast meeting on the theme ‘the Promise of E-learning to the study of STEM; special focus on girls’.
The programme, which falls under Vivo Energy’s broader initiative dubbed VE-STEM, brought together about 200 stakeholders from the diplomatic corps, private sector, government agencies, international development agencies and school authorities.
The objectives of the programme were to discuss ways to make STEM education attractive, increase awareness in career opportunities that exist in the world of science and technology, especially among female students, and garner private sector support.
On the panel was the Managing Director of Vivo Energy, Mr Ben Hassan Ouattara, Mrs Petra Asamoah a board member of ABCDE, Dr Thomas Tagoe, the General Secretary of the Ghana Science Association, and Ms Melody Boateng, the National Professional Officer for the Natural Sciences Sector of UNESCO. Also, in attendance was the National Science Coordinator of the Ministry of Education, Madam Olivia Opare and Kingsley Boachie who represented the Honourable Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum.
Private Sector Involvement
Contributing on the panel discussion, the Managing Director of Vivo Energy Ghana, Mr. Ben Hassan Ouattara said technology gives equal access to all users, irrespective of gender, location and time. Access to computers and the internet for research to complement classroom teaching and learning will be a great resource to girls. Improved access to technology for women and girls, especially in remote and marginalised communities will also encourage girls to pursue STEM courses.
Speaking on the role of the private sector in STEM education, Mr. Ben Hassan Ouattara encouraged players in Ghana’s private sector to get involved in the promotion of STEM Education in Ghana. According to him, an investment in STEM Education would benefit the private sector immensely.
“Companies and organisations can offer internship opportunities to provide a chance for girls and women to learn more about the different fields under STEM. The private sector can also offer job-shadowing programmes or organise career fairs to boost the interest of girls in STEM. Vivo Energy Ghana, under its Graduate Talent Programme, gives learning and development opportunities to STEM students to ensure that their capacities are fully developed for the job market.
UNESCO on Girls in STEM
The Special guest of honour, Mr Abdourahamane Diallo, Country Director for UNESCO, encouraged all to send the right messages to girls to change the perception they have about STEM: “I would like to use this opportunity to encourage all of us to advocate for the right messages to be sent to our girls. We must tell our girls that the world needs STEM and STEM needs women.”
The panel member from UNESCO, Mrs Melody Boateng also stated that UNESCO is very keen to promote women as leaders in STEM fields. She also encouraged all to make the necessary investment in STEM education to make the agenda a successful one.
Importance of E-learning in the Promotion of STEM Education
A Board Member and mentor of the ABCDE, Mrs. Petra Aba Asamoah, in her submission spoke on how e-learning creates a level playing field for all to study STEM. “E-learning creates the opportunity for us to put the solution in the hands of these females because technology is non-judgemental and not gender-biased,” she said.
She added that this informed ABCDE’s decision to partner eCampus an EdTech company with an app which makes learning fun and interactive to provide eLearning solutions to students. She was grateful that Vivo Energy had agreed to support and signed on for free 500 students, 300 of which are girls.
Graduate Talent Forum on STEM
The Human Resources Manager of Vivo Energy Ghana, Mrs Mercy Amoah who was the host of the second session of the progamme, dubbed Graduate Talent Forum explained the Vivo Energy Graduate Talent Programme to participants and talked about the right skill-set for a successful career in the corporate world. Participants included students from selected universities and technical institutions in Ghana, including the University of Ghana and Accra Technical University.
According to her, Vivo Energy’s Graduate Talent Programme gives young graduates, especially in STEM, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, while building the company’s talent pool for future opportunities.
Together with other HR managers from the Volta River Authority and the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Mrs Amoah encouraged more girls to embrace STEM and take up jobs mainly dominated by males.
Commitment by Vivo Energy
Vivo Energy Ghana, under VE-STEM, will continue to invest and work with the relevant stakeholders, to advance the study of STEM and encourage more students especially females to pursue opportunities in these fields.