The global workforce needs more engineers, especially within the world’s southern regions. Throughout African and Latin America, a number of programs are working to increase STEM education and entrepreneurship, particularly among women and girls, who many experts think can help drive innovation within the world’s poorest regions.
STEMi Makers Africa is on a unique mission to increase science and technology education and employment within Africa.
According to its Nigerian founder, Amanda Obidike, the organization’s goal is to engage more than 5 million young people in STEM and prepare them for Africa’s labor market over the next 20 years. Obidike told Forbes there are currently 30.6 million Africans who, if equipped with the right skills, could fill technology-related jobs, especially in Nigeria, where unemployment soars at around 60%.
“I have had a diverse number of community projects across 17 Global South countries in Africa,” Obidike said. “In 2017, I launched the ‘I-be-Lady-o’ Workshop program – an expression of STEMi Women – to raise young girls and women participation in STEM, learning outcomes and retention in STEM careers.”
Under the program, she said a community of women in Sierra Leone constructed data-logging IoT weather stations that help farmers improve their crops.
The workshops are doing more than engaging young women in STEM, they’re giving women an opportunity to be seen as leaders within their communities.
“Today, we have built a coaching community of over 500 women by providing support in STEM lucrative fields and becoming strong-willed to expand their social enterprise,” Obidike told Forbes.
In Latin America, STEM education is also giving women a boost. Currently, women represent 35% of STEM students within the continent – up from 12% in 2013. The increase in STEM-educated women is spurring innovation, as a number of science and engineering programs launched by female “STEMpreneurs” aim to funnel more tech workers into Latin America’s labor market. For example, Laboratoria, a social impact startup founded by Peruvian entrepreneur Mariana Costa, has trained over 1,000 female coders from low-income communities throughout Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Brazil.
“It is an exciting time for Latin American entrepreneurship and innovation,” Susana García Robles, Chief Investment Officer and Gender Initiatives Coordinator at IDB Lab, writes in Crunch Base News. “I’m confident that in the next decade, women in Latin America and the Caribbean will have provided an example to other countries on gender inclusion in STEM entrepreneurship.”