[Originally posted by UNESCO] WomEng in South Africa is cracking the code to get girls into engineering studies

Limited female role models, misconceptions about engineering studies and careers, and gender bias and stereotypes are some of the factors that are keeping girls and women out of engineering studies and careers. Why should we care?

“Only 11% of all engineers globally are female,” shares Naadiya Moosajee, co-founder of WomEng, a South African social enterprise now operating in 13 countries. “Engineers design our world and our society, and if we don’t have women at the design table, we exclude 50% of the population.”

Education pathways for girls and women into engineering are extremely limited, finds UNESCO’s recent report, Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM(link is external). According to UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics, only 8 percent of all students in engineering, manufacturing and construction globally are women.

Ensuring girls and women have equal access to STEM careers is an imperative from human rights, scientific and development perspectives. “It’s not just about the SDGs or social development, but it’s also an economic imperative to have more women going into engineering and technology,” explains Naadiya. Gender equality in STEM will ensure that boys and girls, men and women, will be able to contribute to, and benefit equally from, the benefits and assets associated with STEM.

The next generation of women engineers

WomEng has been working since 2006 to develop the next generation of women engineers and leaders. “I’m an engineer and so is my cofounder, Hema. For us, it’s deeply personal. We started this organization because our classes didn’t have anyone that looked like us,” says Naadiya. “We decided to do something to change the status quo.”

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Aditi Lachman