By Cynthia Chiyabu Ngwengwe
Women in Engineering play a critical role in socio-economic development thereby improving people’s livelihood.
Gender Acting Minister Hon. Sylvia Chalikosa said this when she launched the International Women in Engineering day which is an awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available in industry.
Hon. Chalikosa said global efforts to promote engineering include among them the UNESCO engineering initiative which was established by the 36th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2011 to address major challenges in engineering.
“Among the challenges were shortage of engineers around the world, decreased interest in engineering as a career option for young people and the under-representation of women in engineering” she said.
She went on to say that in line with UNESCO’s global priorities on Africa and gender equality, UNESCO engineering initiative focuses on women and the African region in their activities and programmes.
Hon. Chalikosa said the initiative aims to encourage women to pursue engineering studies and retain women engineers in the profession.
She further said the initiative will help fulfil the human resource need as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, innovation and entrepreneurship have been acknowledged to immensely contribute to a better society, economy, and the nation.
“Although the world has changed with a number of initiatives created to support women in engineering, the need is very much still there as governments and industries across the industrialised world have sponsored efforts to increase representation of women in engineering” she said.
She said engineering still remains a largely male-dominated occupation in most countries with an estimated 10-20% woman in the engineering workforce.
She went on to say that even though there has been an increase in numbers of female students in engineering, it is still not significant because women face different challenges, ranging from educational constraints, cultural norms and prejudices which influence opportunities and choices thereby significantly reducing the number of women engineers employed in their field of expertise.
She further said that the number of female graduates has increased from one in the late 70s to about 10 today which still is low, and less than 10% of the total registered engineers in Zambia are women.
“I am delighted to note that the Institution launched the Zambia Women in Engineering Section which will help increase the number and advance the prominence of women in engineering in Zambia.” she said.
She said this will also ensure national competitiveness by leading and supporting the institution’s efforts to expand female participation which is in line with national and global efforts.
The minister called on the section to identify challenges that prevent girls from pursuing careers in engineering and endeavour to overcome them in order to achieve gender parity.
The International Women in Engineering Day was charaterised with motivational talks held at the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University.