This International Day of Girls and Women in Science, PEAS is celebrating the importance of a secondary education in giving girls the confidence and skills they need to pursue a post-secondary pathway that’s right for them.

Increasingly in Africa, many young girls and women are pursuing science education, and this has translated into better representation of female scientists across the continent. In Sub-Saharan Africa today, 33.5% of researchers, and 30% science professionals are women[1]. Progress has been made, but the under-representation of women in scientific fields persists in Africa and globally.

Secondary education is key to tackling this under-representation. For over 15 years, PEAS has worked to strengthen the quality of secondary education for all students, whilst reducing the specific barriers faced by girls. Evidence shows that girls at our schools feel safer, learn faster, develop more relevant skills, and make more successful transitions than girls at other schools[2].

We know that each girl and each school is unique. PEAS supports our school leaders to deliver interventions that address the complex barriers that girls face in their school context. Understanding the barriers is key to providing targeted support.

Why are women and girls under-represented in science in Africa?

Many girls and women continue face barriers that discourage them for pursuing careers in science fields, including gendered expectations, lack of female role models in leadership positions in science, and insufficient information about career pathways. Social and cultural norms mean that girls are encouraged to prioritise familial and marital responsibilities over their educational and professional aspirations. As a result, many girls, and young women opt-out of pursuing science at school.

Why is women and girls’ under-representation a problem?

The under-representation of girls and women in science is not just an individual concern, but a systemic issue with wider implications for sustainable development.  Diversity and inclusion are crucial for driving progress in the science sector, and in society more broadly. Research indicates that female leaders are more likely to pursue sustainable futures for their communities, and advocate for the inclusion and equal participation of women at every level[3]. And, in Africa, female scientists play a pivotal role in national development[4].

How is PEAS contributing to increasing girls’ participation in science?

PEAS’s holistic approach to girls’ inclusion ensures that girls are given the right support and opportunities to build their confidence and self-esteem and decide on a post-school pathway that’s right for them.

One intervention we deliver is gender-inclusive career guidance and advice. Designated teachers provide tailored guidance on subject choices and career pathways. The advise is given in a gender sensitive manner, ensuring girls are positively encouraged to pursue any subject or career of their choice and are not guided towards traditionally female-dominated roles or sectors. By inviting external speakers and organizing leadership training sessions, PEAS exposes girls to diverse career options and equips them with the necessary skills to succeed in their chosen paths.

If you want to know more about PEAS’ approach to girls’ inclusion, including our gender-inclusive career guidance, click here.

 

[1] UNESCO (2021) Women and the digital revolution. UNESCO Science Report. Available here.

[2] GEC-T (2021) GEARRing Up for Success: GEC-T Endline Report. Available here.

[3] O’Neil, T., Plank, G., and Domingo, P. (2015) Support to women and girls’ leadership: A rapid review of the evidence. ODI. Available here.

[4] Matete, R.E. (2022). ‘Why are women under-represented in STEM in higher education in Tanzania? Forum for International Research in Education 7(2): 48-63.

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