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“Fighting discrimination against women and girls in STEM is vital”

To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Afm.media spoke with the Executive Director of YUVA, a pioneering organisation promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in Mauritius. Krishna Athal reveals that the gap between boys and girls is still high in these fields. The fight to overturn the situation is vital.

In terms of percentage, what is the women’s representation in STEM education in Mauritius?

Unfortunately, despite significant progress in boosting women’s involvement in higher education, they remain under-represented in the STEM fields. Currently, women account for only 33.3% of all researchers globally and make up just 12% of members of primary scientific academies. Also, in cutting-edge areas such as artificial intelligence, barely one in every five experts, around 22% of them are women. Furthermore, they are frequently awarded lower research funding than their male counterparts, and female researchers often have shorter lower-paying careers. The latter’s work is underrepresented in prestigious publications, and they are often overlooked for promotion. Women account for only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of computer science and informatics graduates, even if talents are scarce in most technological disciplines.

In Mauritius, YUVA has been actively promoting STEM education through various events since 2017. We’ve seen very less applications and participation of Mauritian women and girls in STEM. The ratio has been 1:10 (girls:boys). Acknowledging women’s contributions to science, breaking misconceptions, and fighting discrimination against women and girls in science is more vital than ever.

Have you seen a rise in interest from girls for these courses?

No. YUVA is the pioneering organisation, which promotes STEM education through robotics in Mauritius. Of every 10 applicants, we’ve seen only 1 girl applying/participating for the courses. 

Do you have any ideas on how to attract more girls and women to this field?

We’ve been targeting girls’ secondary schools for the last 2 years to receive more applications from them. Also, constant seminars and webinars about STEM are being conducted by YUVA in their schools to promote STEM. By showing the women/girls of Mauritius that if they learn how to communicate, cooperate, and work together using the tools of science and engineering to find solutions to the world’s grand challenges – water, energy, security, medicine, food, and education – they learn how to work with each other, trust each other, and become part of a truly global community.