At a time, when research has shown that the number of female participating in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is abysmally low at 30 percent worldwide, Interswitch Group, a Nigerian Pan-African digital payment and commerce solutions company, has highlighted the effort it has put in place to ensure women and girls participate in STEM.
This is coming as the world is about to celebrate this year’s women and girls in science with the theme ‘Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19’.
According to Interswitch, it has in many ways provided viable platforms to inspire women and girls in technology as part of its policy to run equal opportunity and gender-balanced employment policies.
It says its workforce shows a sizeable number of female scientists heading mainstream tech departments, adding that it encourages cross-fertilization of ideas, mentoring and collaborations between the older and the younger scientists. This, it believes, will help raise the next generation of tech women who will help Africa take its place in the fourth revolution.
Another way the technology giant is improving the participation of women and girls in technology is through its corporate social initiative tagged InterswitchSPAK. InterswitchSPAK is an annual Pan-African competition aimed at re-igniting the study of STEM subjects among secondary school students in Africa.
It is a fact that there are few girls in secondary school science classes and even fewer at the tertiary level. To ensure fair female participation during the InterswitchSPAK National Science competition, participating schools are urged to register at least two girls among their best six science students.
With the continued emphasis on female students’ participation, there was an 18% increase from the first edition to the second edition. The inaugural edition of the competition had a 60% to 40% share of male to female students. The year after, it was 50.9% male and 49.9% female students’ enrolment.
The InterswitchSPAK has its masterclass session where successful individuals share their experiences and mentor the young students. There is also the Innovation Challenge where the students, including the females, are tasked to find technological solutions to societal challenges. The Innovation Challenge allows the students to develop a sense of responsibility towards finding solutions to the problems around them.
Members of the winning team from the Innovation Challenge undergo an internship at Interswitch with the tech experts to experience firsthand how technology solutions are developed.
Issues worked on by the students over the years include public transportation, healthcare, and education as it relates to out-of-school children, agriculture, electoral processes and provision of financial services to unbanked Nigerians.
At Interswitch, when it concerns tech, women are just as important as men.