Inspiration and Empowerment for Future Generations of Women in STEM in Cabo Verde

May 20, 2024

By: Sofia Silva, Accelerator Lab Cabo Verde

In Cabo Verde, a new chapter is being written in the history of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Areas that were once dominated by men are undergoing an exciting transformation, driven by local and international initiatives aimed at breaking down barriers and opening doors for women to explore and shine in STEM careers.

Opening Dialogues and Awakening Dreams:

The “STEM para as meninas” a STEM program for girls, an initiative of the UNDP's Accelerator Lab and in partnership with Women in Tech, brings inspiring women from the field to dialogue with high school students. Through these conversations, young women have the opportunity to learn about successful trajectories, demystify stereotypes, and be inspired to pursue careers in STEM.

Uncovering Student Motivations:

A questionnaire applied during the sessions revealed that lack of information is one of the main obstacles preventing girls from choosing STEM fields. This is due, in part, to the novelty and unfamiliarity of these areas for the female audience.

Analyzing the responses, we observe that half of the students define their area of interest independently, while the other half are influenced by parents or teachers.

Study choices are divided as follows: 21% for management, 22% for health and medicine, and the remaining 60% spread across various areas, with technology and computing representing only 8%.

An Urgent Call to Action: These data clearly indicate the urgent need to spark students' interest in scientific areas. Initiatives like the “STEM para as meninas” are crucial to achieving this goal, but the engagement of the entire society is fundamental.

Analyzing Female Participation in STEM - Cabo Verde and the World

STEM fields are a global challenge, and Cabo Verde is no exception. Data underscores the need for diverse approaches to foster gender equality in STEM.

Global Scenario - Prevailing Inequality: Globally, women constitute only 35% of STEM higher education students, as per 2017 UNESCO data. This imbalance highlights the pressing need for actions ensuring equal STEM opportunities for women.

Cabo Verde - Advancements and Barriers: For Cabo Verde, 2022/2023 secondary education data shows a rising female presence, with 68.2% girls compared to 49.1% boys. Yet, this doesn't translate into increased STEM career choices.

Academic Performance vs. Career Choice - A Paradox: Girls outperform boys in secondary education, with a 71.2% completion rate in 2019/2020, versus 53.5% for boys. Despite this, girls remain underrepresented in STEM. 
(Source: Ministry of Education and INE (Multi-purpose Survey 2019).

Technical Course Diversification - Overcoming Barriers: Gender disparities exist in technical course selection too. Female-dominant areas include small business management (55%) and accounting (65%), while they're underrepresented in mechanical engineering (14%), electricity (13%), and Computer Systems Administration (10.8%).

This trend reinforces gender stereotypes, limiting women's career prospects. Promoting diverse choices, encouraging girls to explore STEM potential is crucial.
(Source: Education Yearbook 2020/2021, Studies, Planning and Cooperation Service, Ministry of Education)

STEM Women Success Stories in Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde has women making notable contributions to STEM, despite the challenges they face.

On Girls in ICT Day, the Cabo Verde Joint office UNDP, UNICEF, and UNFPA organized an open dialogue at the University of Santiago. Over 100 students from three institutions met with three prominent women in STEM.

The event provided a motivating dialogue where the speakers shared their experiences and achievements, inspiring young women to pursue STEM.

  • Pamela Borges: A highly recognized PhD biomedical engineer, Pamela is known globally for her molecular biosciences research. She's established molecular biology labs in Cabo Verde and won the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa award in 2023. LinkedIn
  • Yara Rodrigues: Yara, a PhD holder in Molecular Biosciences, is a passionate advocate for biodiversity and the environment. She's Cabo Verde's first Next Einstein ambassador, inspiring younger generations to protect the planet. LinkedIn
  • Any Pereira: Any, a computer engineering graduate, has significantly impacted the tech industry. She's a published researcher and is inspiring women in STEM. She's won several awards and published a master's thesis on Portugal's critical systems' internet exposure. LinkedIn

Inspiring Future Generations:

These women are not only excellent in STEM fields but also inspire future generations in Cabo Verde. Their achievements show that women can make significant impacts through hard work and passion.

By acknowledging these accomplishments and encouraging girls, we can normalize women in STEM, leading to a more prosperous future for all in Cabo Verde.

Supporting Women in STEM in Cabo Verde:

Join our mission to empower women in STEM, debunk stereotypes, and foster inclusivity. Here's how you can contribute:

  • Mentor young women aspiring to STEM careers.
  • Promote STEM education through workshops and events.
  • Challenge gender stereotypes and advocate for equal opportunities.
  • Support women transitioning to STEM fields by providing needed information.
  • Advocate for pay equality in STEM fields.

Together, We Can Make a Difference:

  • Increase female participation in STEM to balance gender representation.
  • Reduce wage disparity and promote equality through increased female presence in STEM.
  • Drive innovation by incorporating diverse perspectives in STEM fields.
  • Invest in women in STEM for a more prosperous future for Cabo Verde.

The Future is Female: Women in STEM embody a future of potential.