Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in partnership with the Center for International Migration and Development (CIM) have conducted the first career guidance fair for female students to encourage the uptake of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses.
The career fair dubbed, SHEAspires, conducted Friday, November 5, 2021, brought together female students from various secondary schools and women professionals in STEM for an interactive career guidance forum.
The initiative is a strategic move to counter what women in the profession have described as “a leaky STEM pipeline” that has seen dwindling numbers of female scientists and engineers in tertiary level education and in leadership positions.
While presiding over the opening ceremony, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi recognized the importance of career fairs in shaping students into leadership roles in STEM.
She acknowledged that a lot of work has to be done to bridge the gap between male and female professionals in STEM careers.
“Why girls in STEM? And why at this time? Indeed, the answer to this question is simple. The gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields is still a concern,” she noted.
According to a study conducted in 2018 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “15-year-old girls are two times less likely to aspire to a career as an engineer, a scientist or an architect,” observed, Prof. Ngumi.
In a speech read on her behalf by the JKUAT Director, Gender and Mentoring Centre, Prof. Wanjiru Wanyoike, the Vice Chancellor noted that the participation of girls and women in STEM is one of the key pillars to achieving 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Ms. Cynthia Kamau, a CIM representative, said, the programme will seek to address immediate concerns such as why less females are pursuing science courses.
She lauded JKUAT for playing a leading role in not only promoting STEM courses but also being an outlet of many female professionals in STEM, country wide.
Eng. Martha Cheruto who is the Deputy CEO, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, and one of the key-note speakers, urged female students who aspire to work in STEM careers to be prepared to compete with men in the highly competitive careers.
In order to succeed in the male dominated STEM careers, Eng. Cheruto urged the students to have a clear vision of the careers they wished to pursue and grab any available opportunities. She acknowledged that gender equality responsibilities were responsibilities that should be carried out by both genders in order to narrow the current gap.
Other speakers during the webinar included; Dr. Karanja Kabini and Dr. Mercy Mwaniki from JKUAT College of Engineering and Technology and Dr. Viona Ojiambo the College of Pure and Applied Sciences, among others.