The United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office (UN RCO) organized a Roundtable on Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) gaps and opportunities for Women in Samoa, to celebrate the International Women’s Day 2019.
The roundtable on STEM, brought together 24 women who are breaking the barrier in careers that is dominated by men.
In setting the direction for the dialogue, the UN Resident Coordinator (UN RC) Ms. Simona Marinescu who facilitated the roundtable brought to the attention of the participants, five innovations that improved the lives of women, and a few women activists that are changing the world. In the spirit of the International Women’s Day she added that women who are changing lives in Samoa must be recognized and acknowledged. She added that there are areas of development where women in Samoa are making significant contributions and results, but STEM is another area with possibilities and opportunities to make women lives better and it needs to be explored.
But in order to fully realize the possibilities and opportunities for women in STEM, there are challenges to overcome. But where do we begin.?
Taase Tavita of the Computer Services Limited reflected on the importance of having conversations with parents as they determine their children’s career path. She believes that outreach and more awareness on STEM opportunities can enlighten the parents to support their daughters to pursue a career in STEM.
The idea of outreach and awareness of STEM targeting parents was well supported but to be more targeted, Agnes Saili Kerslake of Skyeye believes that we need start with the parents, especially the father.
Stephanie Vagana Lomitusi and her career as an electrical engineer was inspired by her father and brothers. It is a challenging career and women must also be educated to take better care of themselves, Stephanie added.
But a career in STEM needs to be promoted at the early years of learning. The girls need to be exposed to new technologies and STEM education should open new ideas for girls to be interested in a career in STEM according to Christina Mualia-Lima of the Samoa Water Authority.
However, STEM education in Samoa is a huge challenge. There is a need for incentives to offset the lack of Science educators; and while there is technology available there is also a low number of teachers for Information and Technology (IT) courses, according to Professor Muagututi’a Ioana Tu’ugalei Vaai-Chan Mow of the National University of Samoa (NUS).
At the primary level, Gail Townsend of UNESCO believes that science textbooks are still modern and need to be localized with relevant illustrations that can give a better portrait of science and how it applies to everyday life. She added, that women in STEM careers can network with girls at year 10 level and inspire them to go into STEM as a future career.
The Government has in place, interventions to bridge the gap of women representation and to promote the value of STEM in the country’s development. Cecily Faasau of the Office of the Regulator (OOTR) elaborated on the Girls in ICT Day that the OOTR organize every year. This event target girls in the college level to further promote ICT as a career path and to increase women participation in ICT developments. This participation of women in ICT developments can also be strengthened by women in ICT encouraging other women, added Edna Temese also from the NUS.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) provides an attachment scheme for students undertaking studies in engineering. According to Chief Executive Officer Galumalemana Ta’atialeoititi Tutuvanu-Schwalger, the attachment scheme is an opportunity for these students to gain practical experience on engineering. The LTA also have programmes where schools are invited for a visit to a work site, to get an idea of the work and people involved in the construction of roads in Samoa.
The discussion on the challenges and opportunities in STEM for women in Samoa was in-depth and mind opening. The UN RC Simona Marinescu appreciated the views and the knowledge of these women, shared at the roundtable. It is hoped that this dialogue will establish a constructive platform to not only inspire more women to go into STEM but to also succeed.
Happy International Women Day.