Globally, the participation of women and girls in STEM is low, with women making up just 35 percent
of all STEM students in higher education. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 30 percent of professionals in the sciences are women, according to a UNESCO study
. Prejudice and assumed stereotypes keep women of colour, especially black women from pursuing and staying in STEM fields. Psychologically, stereotypes on black women's intellect, cognitive abilities, and work ethic contribute to their lack of confidence in STEM. Girls interested in STEM are often told that they inherited a male brain.
“The gap starts at the basic education level. Only five percent of South African schools teach computer science, for example, and predominately in affluent urban areas,” says Lindiwe Matlali, founder and CEO of Africa Teen Geeks. “With more widespread, equal access to computer science, and female mentors and role models in STEM, we believe we can drastically change these numbers. This event is designed to get girls excited about careers in STEM, demystifying the industry, showing them the many opportunities that exist, and building confidence in their skills.” Minette Norman, Vice President of Engineering Practice at Autodesk in Silicon Valley, will be delivering the keynote address. Norman, who has a long history of mentoring women, is also one of only five females in the whole of Silicon Valley to hold a technical position of this level.
“After thirty years in the software industry, I cannot accept that women remain such a small minority, that we do not hold at least half of the technical positions, that we are not equally represented in the C-suite or on boards. My mission is to change that. I want to inspire girls to build the pipeline and come fill the many positions we have open in our companies,” says Norman.
Other confirmed speakers include Iris Cupido, CEO at the SABC Foundation, Dr Zweli Mkhize, patron of Africa Teen Geeks, Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister Department of Higher Education, Science & Technology, Monica Ares, Head of Technology Education at Facebook HQ in Silicon Valley and Gilberto Duarte, Programme Manager Education for Justice Initiative at United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna. Eileen Brewer
who is a Director at Symantec and MD of Golden Seeds will run a workshop on tech entrepreneurship, how to put together a pitch deck and an elevator pitch.
“Momentum is proud to host the Geek Girl Summit as a further sign of its commitment to uplift and enable information and communications technology (ICT) careers for young people and especially women. As a female at a senior executive level, I know the value that more female voices would add to boardrooms and to our organisation. We want to inspire as many young women as possible to see a bright future in STEM careers,” said Ashlene van der Colff, Group Chief Operating Officer MMI, Momentum’s holding company.