“She Goes Tech”, an initiative founded by a Kenyan Tech Women Fellow (2015), Kendi Ntwiga, in collaboration with USIU-Africa Alumni Association, Chaired by Dolly Sagwe-Onyoni held a conference dubbed “She believed she could, so she did STEM” that brought together high school girls and teachers, university and college girls and faculty, private and public sector employers of STEM resources in Kenya. The conference was hosted at USIU-Africa on Friday, 10th February, 2017.
Over 600 people gathered at the conference were honored by the presence of key representatives of the Tech Women Program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, formed to empower, connect and support the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by providing them access and opportunity to advance their careers, pursue their dreams, and become role models for women and girls in their communities.
The conference sought to follow the journey of the female STEM resource in Kenya from a girl’s early teen years in high school, their move to specialize at university and technical colleges and the eventual support from industry to grow female STEM careers in both private and public sector. Kendi Ntwiga shared her journey as a woman in STEM and encouraged the audience not to shy away from such careers. Contributing to the discussion were:
- Jillian Scott, Program Director TechWomen
- Daniela Ushizima, TechWomen Mentor
- Anar Simpson, TechWomen Mentor
The key messages were geared towards encouraging more women to take up STEM careers.
“STEM is as easy as people being able to interact with each other via mobile phone. You girls have no excuse; men can do what women do and the girls can do what men do.”
-Anar Simpson, TechWomen Mentor
Daniela Ushizima emphasized that women should be each other’s support when pursuing STEM related careers.
Vice Chancellor, Prof Zeleza spoke about the focus that USIU-Africa has on STEM mentioning deliberate investments in introducing new STEM programs such as Data Analytics and Business Intelligence, Applied Mathematics, Data Mining, Computer Gaming, Software Engineering, Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Bio Technology in Analytical Chemistry as part of the institution’s 2015-2020 strategic plan.
“To ensure that women excel in STEM-related careers, universities should partner with industry leaders to understand their expectations of STEM graduates and prepare students to meet them.”
-Prof Zeleza, Vice Chancellor, USIU-Africa
The guest of honour, Dr. Katherine Getao, ICT Secretary (Government of Kenya), confirmed government’s position on promoting STEM by quoting the ICT Minister Joe Mucheru’s speech where she mentioned that the Government is implementing a Digital program that will introduce Kenyans to online work where young people can work and earn an income online. On the panel exploring both benefits and challenges that emanate from training and employing female STEM resources were:
- Dani Ushizima, TechWomen Mentor
- Anar Simpson, TechWomen Mentor
- Joy Kiano, Principal Nova Academy
- Prof. Ruthie Rono, DVC Academic Affairs USIU-Africa
- Eunice Kariuki, Director of Partnerships Innovation and Capacity
One key conclusion of the discussion was the need for deliberate focus programs and initiatives by educators and employers in both private and public sectors, in both high school and university level, that encourage girls to engage and grow in STEM in order for Kenya to realize the critical human resource base that will help achieve and sustainably drive its vision 2030 initiatives.