Let’s shape the future of women and girls in science

With women making up only 28% of the workforce in STEM fields, this International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an opportunity to recall that we must keep the nexus of gender equality, human capital development, future of work, and STEM at the forefront of the global agenda.

February 10, 2023 by Nana Araba Abban, Ecobank
4 minutes read
An attendee follows the GEAP Webinar event in a meeting room at Ecobank Kenya HQ in Nairobi, Kenya on April 28, 2022. Credit: Luis Tato/AP Images for GPE
An attendee follows the GEAP Webinar event in a meeting room at Ecobank Kenya HQ in Nairobi, Kenya on April 28, 2022. An in-person and virtual event organized to sensitize the community about the importance of STEM for girls was simultaneously telecasted in Ecobank branches in Ghana, Zimbabwe and Kenya for members of the local community.
Credit: Luis Tato/AP Images for GPE

There is a crisis looming for women and girls in science.

Recent studies show that women make up only 28% of the workforce in STEM fields. In low-income countries, even fewer girls than boys choose STEM subjects, as gender norms pose a significant obstacle.

We believe that bringing everyone forward for sustainable and equitable development is essential. Yet we need to work together if we are to meet these ambitious goals.

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we invite you to join us as we seek to transform education and the future of women and girls in science.

The challenge

The world is evolving rapidly. The jobs of the future do not yet exist. Yet, we know that digital skills and technologies will have a critical place. We need young people with the skills to harness these future opportunities – not just in a handful of countries, but in all countries.

In Africa, we need all the talent we can muster to address the interconnected challenges we currently and will face in the 21st century, like building a sustainable and inclusive growth for all, fighting climate change or planning for the next pandemic.

The economic costs of not educating girls are colossal. A recent study, “Missed opportunities: The high cost of not educating girls” estimates that the limited educational opportunities for girls are costing countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings. Educating girls is therefore good for girls and women’s economic empowerment, but also a smart investment for the economy.

The private sector has a critical role to play

The years ahead therefore present a significant economic opportunity for growth, by ensuring that women and girls have the same opportunities as men to participate fully in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

We must keep at the forefront of global concern the nexus of gender equality, human capital development, future of work, and STEM. This is particularly crucial for Africa as it’s also how the continent will attain sustainable economic growth and social progress. One of the continent’s greatest needs is skilled human resources if it is to thrive and harness potential of the fourth industrial revolution.

As the future of work changes, with new jobs emerging at the frontier of economies, we can’t allow girls to miss out on the skills they need to become effective change-makers and drivers of their economies.

Private sector support for gender equality in education can yield rich dividends – it can unlock broader female participation in the workforce, and create a strong pipeline of future entrepreneurs, creating an ecosystem and setting a different tone for future generations.

Given the increased awareness and focus on 21st century skills, there is a critical and exciting opportunity to create substantial action in this area through meaningful partnerships.

Yet some of the key challenges for the business community include establishing strategic linkages to government plans, issues of scale and sustainability, and finding the right partners on the ground.

To address these challenges, there is enormous potential to enhance alignment and complementarity between corporate initiatives and national education priorities of governments on girls’ education. Strengthening linkages between private sector investment and national education programs will create greater alignment between country needs and corporate action.

Raising our hand and lending our voice

It is in this context that we are working with the Global Partnership for Education as part of the Girls’ Education Awareness Program.

Through our partnership with GPE, we are using our voice, platform and networks to advocate for gender equality in education. We designed our first campaign around giving women and girls equal opportunities to pursue and thrive in STEM and ICT careers – an issue particularly close to our heart and also a priority education issue for governments across Africa.

This is only the beginning. Today the Ecobank Foundation, together with GPE, launches ‘Bias No More’ - a series of podcast featuring eminent leaders and voices from government, civil society and the private sector, who share their ideas, insights and perspectives on how girls and young women can be empowered to take up career opportunities in STEM fields.

We believe that the business community should continue to recognize and prioritize girls’ education as a key driver of growth.


By working together and supporting education programs that focus on gender equality, we can tip the balance and attract more women and girls into science.


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