On 11 February, we celebrate Women and Girls in Science. The United Nations shared results from a study that says only 18% of females will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in a science-related field. Compare that to the 37% of males who will achieve that and you can understand why it’s important to encourage women to enter the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (commonly known as STEM). Here are 5 South African women and girls who are working to reduce the gap between males and females in the STEM disciplines.
1. Sarah Collins
You very likely have seen the colourful Wonderbag around. Durban-born Sarah Collins, together with poverty activist Moshy Mathe, created the alternative cooker more than 10 years ago when Eskom implemented load-shedding. The non-electric heat-retention cooker is said to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated half a ton per year if used three times a week. In 2018, Sarah received the Woman of the Decade in Entrepreneurship Award at the World Economic Forum and Time magazine ranked the company one of the 50 most genius companies in the world.
2. Gabriella Mogale
When Knysna was ablaze in 2017, a 17-year-old learner from Welkom came up with a solution, which she entered into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. Gabriella’s idea is to create fire-resistant shacks. Cement-based paint solution would be painted on the outside of the structure to prevent the fire from spreading and a mixture of recyclable substances would be painted on the inside of the structure (which would also insulate the shack during winter).
3. Brittany Bull
Brittany and her team from the Meta Economic Development Organisation (MEDO) space programme are behind South Africa’s first privately owned satellite into space. They hope that the satellite will provide information on changing weather patterns. Through this, food scarcity and disaster management in Africa could be improved.
4. Tshiamo Legoale
At only 17 years old, geologist Tshiamo Legoale is the 2017 FameLab International Champion, thanks to her metallurgical research. Tshiamo is looking for a safer alternative to illegal mining. She works for Mintek Mobile Data Solutions, South Africa’s national mineral research organisation, and is investigating how wheat could be used to harvest leftover gold from mine dumps.
5. Baratang Miya
Baratang is the founder and CEO of GirlHype – Women Who Code. The NPO teaches girls programming and app development skills. Baratang herself didn’t have formal training in coding – she is self-taught – so she understands how challenging (and rewarding) the industry can be. She believes that GirlHype is about more than just teaching the skill; it’s also about building women’s confidence and belief that they can succeed in the STEM fields.
In response to the low number of women in the STEM fields, Vodacom takes part in a Vodafone global initiative aimed at providing teenage girls across 26 countries, including 14- to 18-year-old girls in South Africa, with coding training. Read more about the Code Like a Girl training programme here.