Women and Leadership

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WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND MATHEMATICS: Lilian Mapuranga, Science and Technology Officer, Department of Nanotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology Development

ABSTRACT Despite the great strides in women empowerment and emancipation there is still a gap of women in leadership positions in the science, engineering and technology and mathematics (STEM). Data in Zimbabwe, obtained from the Draft Status of the Science, Technology and Innovation in Zimbabwe document show that there is a higher enrolment of men than women and that female staff ranged from between 0%-36% in tertiary institutions with no statistics as to how many females are staffed in STEM. These statistics show gender disparity and efforts should be made to improve gender balance, to improve the numbers of women occupying leadership positions, in all sectors. A number of factors which attribute to this are well known and some are: Discrimination- women in leadership are subdued to covert and overt discrimination, which can deter them to administer their duties tactfully Social issues- include cultural beliefs to educate the boy over the girl child and this has a social bearing where a girl child is sidelined and does not reach her full potential. Lack of role models and nurturing- The absence of role models and mentorships is leaving a gap in science field. Education-programmes that help and encourage women interested in STEM should be put up to enhance their full potential. Part of this paper seeks to bring about the aspect of why there is an under-representation of women in STEM fields; the barriers that they face at primary level and in leadership positions. The distinct lack of research in the area of women leadership in STEM fields suggests that this is not a problem that is currently understood and not being addressed and its finding s will lobby for policy advocacy.

INTRODUCTION Despite the large gains and trends that are going globally and having much literature that is availed on gender equality, there is no intersection of that subject linking to STEM, in as much as other sectors or characters are covered. This paper seeks to benchmark the unique problems that are underlying at leadership levels and how they perceive the under-representation of women in the STEM and leadership. STATUS OF WOMEN IN STEM IN ZIMBABAWE The current status of women in STEM, from graphical data below shows that there is a huge gap of women taking up science, technology, engineering and this is a challenge that we are facing as a nation. Below is a graphical description which shows the disparity of women in STEM at research level. 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 entry secondary tertiary research


boys girls

Fig1. STEM Gender Ratios: Rungano Karimanzira et al

From the illustration given above in Fig1 the trend shows that girls (pink) from elementary level produce/have the same performance as the boys (green).The same trend continues to secondary school where even when the girl child is given the chance to undertake the same subjects as boys they will perform according to the same standards as boys. The variations come at tertiary and research levels and this is where the issue that leads to lack of women in leadership’s roles stems from.

Fig.2 shows the arrow representing the “challenge” by percentage of the total number of females taking up research in 2005-2009.A slight improvement was seen in 2006-2008,then a decline in 2009, a result of the economy’s downturn. This resulted in brain drain and most of the females opting to relocate to greener pastures. Leadership roles affected too? Fig3 shows how enrolment in the specific science, engineering and technology subject’s was from the year 2000 to 2010.As observed the numbers in this sector are dwindling as the year’s progress. Causes and result and impacts?

90 80

70 60

30 20

female %

male %

10 0
2005 2006 2007 2008


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