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STEM Fields Are Empowering — Girls, Choose Them Early

Written by: Dr. Hynd Bouhia, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Everything we do, everything we work on, every problem we solve are related directly or indirectly to STEM. In our everyday life, we use calculus, science, biology, computer, technology, physics, etc. Thus, when STEM is approached as a necessity for different life matters, for business, and for succeeding as an entrepreneur, the choice becomes obvious. It is not anymore an issue to choose or not to choose STEM.

Finland’s Lesson: Tech-savvy Children Just Want To Have Fun


For the past two decades, the world’s top education system has been Finland. What’s the secret of that Nordic country’s success? Paradoxically, much of it comes down to short class time and the near absence of homework.


By focusing on learning during four school hours per day, kids can play, sleep and be a kid the other 20 hours a day. With a cap on 10 minutes of homework, they can knock it off to play games, sports, music; draw and paint; write poetry; learn new languages; read for fun – or explore and experiment with practical outcomes, like construction and robotics.


Teachers – liberated from a long school day and year – have the energy to share with students everything they need to know for a rich and balanced life. They teach with fire – and kids learn with hunger – not just reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also how to cook, sew, to sing during class. Finland’s gender-neutral approach treats girls and boys are treated the same way, with the same activities. With no private schools, rich parents feel obliged to contribute to improving education for their own daughters and sons – as well as every other child in public schools.


Those schools also treat boys and girls like adults. The shift forward gears teaching toward what a student wants to become and, therefore, what she needs to learn to achieve her dreams. A math teacher’s pedagogic approach is based on her discovering joy from an equation, and he ensures parity through all STEM disciplines. It follows, of course, that in addition to leading in education, Finland is also the most advanced country in terms of gender equity in the working world.


There is absolutely no reason that Finland’s approach can’t be adapted for the needs of the African girl or any girl in the world. She can and must be raised exposed to all the activities taught in those Nordic classrooms, learning for pleasure, making time to play and experiment, and discovering what she needs to know to achieve who she wants to become.


STEM Turns A Schoolgirl Into A University Woman


College unlocks every girl’s gateway to her career. In university, she starts to understand what role she could play. Now her barriers to overcome are those of the adult. She may feel intimidated coming in the door of her computer science lecture hall, robotics class, or chemistry lab, or engineering shop, only to discover she is the lone female among her fellow science geeks and tech nerds.


That gender imbalance is becoming an increasingly distinct possibility. Even as university STEM disciplines have ballooned in size, female ratios within them have shrunk, from 37% in the 1980s to 17% in 2015. This defies easy explanation, like the ignorant shrug that assumes without a shred of evidence that “boys just like computers more than girls.” Requests for empirical proof of this are met with awkward silence.


The good news, as shown in my book “African Girl, African Women,” is that public and private leaders are working to restore gender balance in STEM fields. Better still, universities aggressively encourage females to pursue these disciplines.


This said, despite massive efforts to encourage girls to pursue scientific studies between 2000 and 2008, female interest in computer science plunged 79%. Amid a transformative and powerful digital revolution, as demand for tech jobs continues to rise, the ratio of women going into computer science is lower today than it was in the 1980s. In this respect, a girl with no grasp of math or science has a diminished future.


Learning A Common Language


STEM disciplines can feel new, distant, and imposing. People naturally fear what we don’t understand. One way to integrate the field is to simplify it into an everyday issue, a language tool that opens a world that can be fun, even tasty.


Growing up, the girl can discover that cooking is basically chemistry, that gardening is botany, that light is physics, or and that shopping involves calculation. Her interest in a goat involves biology and may lead her into veterinary science. Her love of electronic games, or even a mobile phone text, can remind her of the coding behind the screen. She can start to see scientific reality in the weather, the climate, the rain, and the drought. Once the language of STEM becomes as common as a family member, it becomes easier to reach. She can even find STEM in athletes. Understanding that running and performing combine the forces of biology, chemistry, and physics in motion.


The exciting thing about this language is that once learned, it imposes no limits, no rules. Every girl can embrace several identities. She can explore mathematics, dance, and fashion. She can chase particles and butterflies. She can dress up technology and paint robotics in pink. Such options can be mixed and reordered as she sees fit, according to her identity and spirit.


Girls and boys both face STEM challenges but respond in different ways. Boys feel they simply lack time to master this important new language, while girls feel they lack the innate capacity to ever do so. The confidence gap suggests the need for a different approach. External pressures and media – movies, cartoons, games – may reinforce stereotypes and nourish doubts.


Finally, childhood can build any girl’s confidence, self-sufficiency, and self-love. Through a multifaceted education, the balance of “serious” subjects as well as culture, art, and sports activities are nourished. With support from below, above, and surrounding her, we can see a glimpse of how far she can go and strengthen her leadership skills.


For more info, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and visit my website!


 

Dr. Hynd Bouhia, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Hynd Bouhia has cumulated more than 20 years of professional experience in high-level and leadership positions, covering investments, financial structuring, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development strategies. Hynd Bouhia was nominated by Forbes among the 100 most influential women in the world in 2008 and the most influential women in Business in the Arab World in 2015 and honored as a member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars in 2018.


With a Ph.D. from Harvard University (GSAS 1998), an Engineering degree from Ecole Centrale Paris (1995), and a Master from Johns Hopkins SAIS (2000), Hynd Bouhia started her career at the World Bank in Washington before joining Morocco’s Prime Minister as an economic advisor. She was appointed in 2008 as the Managing Director of Casablanca Stock Exchange. After that, she structured and managed investments and venture capital funds.


As the CEO of Strategica, she advises entrepreneurs, companies, and institutions on economic intelligence, sustainable finance, and growth strategies. Dr. Hynd Bouhia is the author of the motivational book for women entitled "Africa Girl, African Woman: How agile, empowered, and tech-savvy females will transform the continent for good."

 

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