Why Nurturing Your Daughters' Interest in Science Could Spark Tremendous Economic Growth

Globally, only 30 percent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math are women.

The Philippines, according to recent reports, has roughly half the number of researchers it needs. The country has only 189 researchers for every 1,000,000 Filipinos, the lowest ratio in all of Southeast Asia.

In a global economy where science and technology are the main sparkplugs to growth, this presents a serious problem. And the solution, it turns out, may lie with our daughters.

Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), along with communications firm Evident Communications, is spearheading a new social impact program called #STEMPower Our Girls. It hopes to improve gender parity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. The program is being developed with the support of the Department of Education, and funded by the Australian government’s Investing in Women initiative.

“Globally, 30 percent of the STEM workforce are women. You want to have as many people involved as possible. You want to create a larger workforce,” Love Basillote, PBED executive director explains. “When we look at the 30 percent figure here, that becomes a problem because you’re really disadvantaging half of your population.”

#STEMPower Our Girls will offer classes, talks, hands-on workshops, and mentoring to 120 academically qualified young girls from public schools in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro,  to help nurture their interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. The program’s main goal is to increase female enrolment in local science high schools, considering interest in STEM begins to drop off significantly at the age of 11.

Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), along with communications firm Evident Communications, is spearheading a new social impact program called #STEMPower Our Girls

“When we think about careers and college, we think that it’s maybe during senior year high school that girls decide on their career,” says Cecile Dominguez-Yujuico, CEO of Evident Communications. “But what research supports is that identity factors that would predispose a girl to a STEM course or a liberal arts course or creative writing happen much earlier. And part of that is social constructs, social norms, and attitudes of parents and teachers.”

“By the time they’re 15, 16, 17, it’s actually too late to encourage them, or to be able to ensure that their previous position to STEM courses or STEM careers is something that they could sustain in high school,” she adds.

By providing opportunities for greater education—as well as exposure to female role models currently working in STEM fields—to girls within the crucial 11-year-old age group, #STEMPower Our Girls hopes to mitigate the loss of interest.

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The media launch of #STEMPower Our Girls

Should the program prove successful, the economic effects of improving gender parity in STEM industries would be much more pronounced in the Philippines than in other regions. The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), for instance, projects up to three percent growth in the EU’s GDP by 2050 if the gender gap in STEM employment were closed.

According to Basillote’s projections, the Philippines’ growth could reach more than double that rate:

“For the Philippines—in the best case scenario—in 2025, if there was gender parity just in our overall economy, productivity goes up. Our GDP will go up by 7 percent. More than business as usual. We stand to lose 40 million dollars every year because of lack of gender parity.”

With programs like #STEMPower Our Girls, and with an enabling environment provided by parents, teachers, and other support systems, the gender gap in local STEM industries stands a strong chance of being narrowed. And for the Philippines, that might just mean a much brighter future.

For more information on #STEMPower Our Girls, visit http://stempowergirls.org/.

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