Tare Youdeowei & Elizabeth Uwandu
From observation, one would notice that there are fewer females in engineering, as well as a good number of science courses in higher instituions, and in the world of work, when compared with other courses and professions.
Some people believe that the reason for the conspicuous low population of the female gender in the field, is because of the long duration of some science courses like engineering, medicine, etc. They added that calculations in mathematics, physics and chemistry deter them. Another quarter says it is because a lot of people believe some fields are for men while some others are for women. They blame the physical energy required to execute the jobs, for the few number of women in them. One of such is construction engineering.
Vanguard Learning sought the reaction of a cross section of Nigerians on the cause of the low number of females in sciences.
Fear of calculations: According to Ikechukwu Echefu, a graduate of chemical engineering, Federal University of Technology Owerri, the fear of calculations is one major reason why there few females in sciences. “The ratio of males to females in my undergraduate days was120 to 30. Girls are few because they are mostly scared of calculations, especially calculations that involve mathematics.”
Debunking the claims that there are few females in sciences, Tata Agomate, a graduate of Public Health, University of Port Harcourt, said that it is erroneous to say that few females ply the science route. The Nurse who spoke on her field of study said; “I don’t really think that there are fewer females than males in sciences. In my class at UNIPORT, we were 98 in number; 86 females and 12 males. So, females do sciences like their male counterparts.”
Gender bias parents: A doctor from one of the faculties of education in one of the state owned universities who wishes to be simply known as Chidalu, said; “The scarcity of females in engineering has nothing to do with the course, it is a situation which stems from the home front. This means that the orientation that certain courses are for boys while others are for girls, is the crux of the problem. It is a gross gender bias that has affected the system.
“Basically it is an age long fallacy. If the parents are not the obsatcle, if they are supportive or worse, non challant, and a girl does engineering or a boy does home economics, the classmates, who are misled and ecohing the ignorant idealogies of their parents, will make them a laughing stock. Meanwhile there are boys that cannot cope in engineering or sciences and their parents, particularly fathers, will keep pressuring them saying; ‘Don’t be a disgrace, what is food and nut, what is home econmics, what is nursing? You must not be a disgrace to this family’ they will say. Completely disregarding the desires of the boy. So it is not a problem that only girls face.
Hidden beauty: “Recently, a young lady I know became a pilot, she was formerly a runner-up in one of these beauty pageants at a school, as well as a nurse. While I was happy for her my friend with me asked ‘why would a fine girl like that go and waste her beauty in a cockpit, people will not get to see her beauty.’ I was shocked. As it is, people like that are least likely to let their daughters become engineers because they probably feel construction or calculations or going to construction sites is too streaneous for girls.
“The solution is to encourage the girl child. Parents with female children should encourage their daughters to be anything they want to be. First of all, let her identify her desires and interests herself. It doesn’t matter if they are more than one or four in number, just encourge her, she will gradually select one or all of them and become a success.”
On the home front: In the same vein Mrs. Yemisi Alatise, the first African International Inner Wheel President for the year 2016/2017 said; “It starts from the home. There is the saying; push the boy and pamper the girl. That presupposes that the girl is weak, she has no strength, she cannot do heavy work, without allowing her to even try. Why not push her too and see how far her strength can take her.
Even in the home we tend to separate what boys can do from what girls can do. Mothers too need to know that boys and girls should be treated as equals. There are some homes that you don’t find the boys in the kitchen. Meanwhile in some others everyone goes into the kitchen. When it comes to subjects, they tell the girl to go for Home Economics while the boys go for Technical drawing. They don’t allow the children to show their line of brilliance or interest.”
Proferring a solution Alatise continued; “We all have roles to play. Both mothers and teachers need to change their orientation on what a girl should do and otherwise. We all really need to change our orientation; girls are not weaker than boys, allow her to display her strength or weakness herself, because there are some girls that are stronger than boys.
Change of orientation: “Pampering the girl and pushing the boy is not good for us, because the moment you start pampering the girl you are telling her she is weaker than the boy from home. When she eventually gets into the world, she wouldn’t know how to push so she would be pushed aside, instead of fighting for herself or standing her ground in the society. In the Bible and Quran man was first created by God, but that does not mean her interlect is lower. Girls should be encouraged to take more science subjects. Girls should be encouraged to exercise their dreams. An average girl is more brilliant than a boy.”
Respect for hardwork: Jessica Edos, as she wishes to be known, is a construction engineer and she speaks of her ordeal in school and on the field. “In my school there were just four girls in a class of 70. At first we felt out numbered but results quickly stood us out. The boys began to respect us and outside the faculty they don’t joke with us, they protect us in a way. At a time I felt like a kingpin with thugs. I enjoyed my time in school because I never felt disadvantaged simply because am a girl.
“In the world of work, school had already made me tough, it was a walkover. Those that wanted to push me over, those that wanted to treat me with kid gloves, even those that underestimated me, I proved myself through my work, now they all respect me.
“Home was easy, my mum is like a soldier, she taught me not to see myself as weak or less than a man. However, till tomorrow, she never disrespects my father. They always encouraged me.
Societal restrictions: “I think girls are few, because besides their parents not being supportive, they are also worried about what people will say. They also let the societal construction of what females should do define them, this should not be so. There is no law that says nurses must be women and engineers must be men. There is no special organ or part of the body that an engineer must have, hence it is open to all.”
Nosa Daniel, from the faculty of engineering, university of benin, had six girls in his class. He talks about them thus; “They were very competitive and serious, maybe because they were few and had to stick together.
They were very intelligient and sharp. We respected and even admired them. With them, I told myself I will encourage my girl child to go into sciences or to become the first Nigerian astronaut . Though my people are generally conservative about roles girls can play in the society, those girls were an eye opener for me. Besides my mum that sells food to train us, which is a common female job, those ladies made me have renewed respect for women.”
Unlike the girls in arts and social sciences, I saw them as exceptionally intelligient. I laud them