e4, a fintech specialist, has launched a Girls in STEM program to help girls in underserved areas pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) after high school.
The program aims to bring much-needed resources to society’s most vulnerable and marginalized group – young, previously disadvantaged females – in line with e4’s commitment to improving the living standards of previously marginalized communities and upskilling South Africa’s youth for the digital age.
Ntombi Mphokane, e4’s HR and Transformation Executive, is passionate about encouraging women to pursue careers in technology. “With the rise of technology in today’s society, it is critical that we invest more in STEM education for girls to be able to pursue a sustainable and meaningful career path.”
Girls in STEM, which was officially launched in August during Women’s Month, is an after-school program designed to pique the interests of female students and motivate them to pursue STEM subjects in Grade 10.
It introduces female students to STEM concepts in Grade 9, the crucial year before girls drop math and science because they are seen as boys’ subjects by many.
This misconception can be attributed to a lack of support from parents and teachers, a lack of exposure to the various careers women can pursue with STEM subjects, a lack of female role models in these fields, and an ignorance of technology’s ability to transform systems and lives.
The program is currently recruiting girls from two different schools in Gauteng with whom Melisizwe Computer Lab Project has previously collaborated. Girls are chosen based on their attitude and aptitude, and they receive technical training in science, math, engineering, end-user computing, software development, and robotics. The mentorship provided by e4 personnel and other passionate women in the STEM industry, as well as the assistance provided with personal development, are critical to the program’s success. The program will run from Grade 9 until the year after matriculation, with the goal of encouraging girls to pursue careers or further education in STEM fields.
Mphokane, who excels at developing value-added initiatives from the ground up, is instrumental in developing e4’s strategy to look at moving girls from school into opportunities that will lead to employment, either within the e4 ecosystem or in other technology organizations. “We are committed to addressing the digital gender divide and developing the next generation of young female leaders as the driving force behind digital innovation,” she says.
Partnerships like this, according to Candice Kern-Thomas, Founder and Director of Melisizwe Computer Lab Project, are essential for changing the status quo. “With youth unemployment at an all-time high and black female being particularly vulnerable, we must begin investing in initiatives that have a measurable impact. More corporates are needed to invest in the future of the youth, particularly in townships and rural communities, in order to break the cycle of poverty.”