Despite decades of efforts to drive diversity and increase the number of females within the local science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industry, there is still a wide gender gap that exists across related sectors. This gap could be attributed to the various challenges that women still face when looking to enter the sector and progress in their roles as STEM professionals.
This is according to the Regional Director of Sub-Sahara at Arçelik and CEO of Defy Appliances, Mustafa Soylu, who points to UNICEF South Africa research, which highlights that women continue to experience a gender gap in STEM-related careers after college, with less than 28.5% graduating to careers in STEM.
He says that while South Africa has made strides over the past few years when it comes to the number of women in STEM careers, the country and the African continent still have a long way to go to bridge the gender gap that exists in the sector.
“Corporates in South Africa need to play a pivotal role in addressing and transforming the gender gap across STEM, especially those who do business in the sector,” says Soylu.
He goes on to explain that this deep-seated conviction has underpinned the decision taken by Defy South Africa to take on a mission in line with the social commitments of Arçelik, Defy’s parent company; to support the gender equality movement in technology and innovation in cooperation with UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum.
This movement has formed the backbone of the newly launched WE-inTech programme which aims to offer training, internships and job opportunities to women pursuing careers in the STEM field.
“Creating a workforce with STEM skills is critical to achieving global economic growth. And although the number of women in STEM fields has increased over the last 50 years, it appears that the trend has slowed, particularly since the 1990s,” says Soylu.
“Our aim with the WE-inTech project is to raise awareness by emphasising the importance of Research and Development (R&D), encourage young women to pursue careers in related fields, and implement a long-term and effective programme to increase women’s participation in new generation R&D.
“We are proud of this project that reflects our commitment to giving back to South Africa while also demonstrating that we are true allies to women students on their educational and professional journeys.”