Women in Ashesi’s first Engineering class lead the way for gender balance in STEM

Ashesi_Engineering_Women_banner (1)According to UNESCO, an estimated 2.5 million new Engineers are required in sub-Saharan Africa alone to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of improved access to clean water and sanitation. To make this possible, especially in Africa, universities need to attract all young minds to engineering, not just that of men.

However, women only represent an estimated 12% of Engineering students in Africa, and the number of women who go on to work in engineering professions is even lower.”To be an engineer is to be a creator, and it impacts a lot of people when you are the creator of the technology that powers our lives,” says Dr. Ayorkor Korsah, Head of Computer Science at Ashesi. “Each and everyone of us has to play an active role in encouraging the young people – especially women – around us to go into engineering and consider it as a profession.”With this in mind, Ashesi made it a goal to achieve gender balance in its Engineering programme. At the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in 2014, Ashesi President Patrick Awuah made a Commitment to Action on the University’s behalf. Over the course of development for our Engineering curriculum, deliberate steps have been taken to bring in perspectives of women, from academia and from industry, on creating a gender-neutral Engineering classroom. Ashesi’s first Engineering class is made up of 40% women, and leads the way towards stronger gender balance not just at Ashesi, but in other African universities.

“Gender balance is rare in the world of engineering education, but we believe it’s necessary to aim for inclusion,” he explained in a blog post. “More importantly, we believe in making sure that future engineering solutions to Africa’s problems gain from the perspectives of women. This will be very important for engineering success on the continent.”

Women in Engineering at Ashesi

For women in Ashesi’s new Engineering class, getting in is only a start; it would be important that they meet and engage role models, receive career support and eventually become role models themselves for future generations of women in Engineering at Ashesi.

“Ashesi’s goal of gender balance encourages me the more because I know I will receive support here,” says Jessica Quaye ‘19, a member of Ashesi’s first Engineering class who says Engineering is key to pursuing her passion in forensics. “I can rely on people to encourage me not only in the classroom, but even more so in the long term when I start my Engineering career.”

For Dean of Engineering Dr. Fred McBagonluri, supporting more women into Engineering should be an imperative for African governments and businesses, not just universities.

“The question of an innovative society in general asks for unusual perspectives on demographics responses to products,” he explains. “Tactical areas of engineering such as market research, requirements gathering, immersion in customer environment, branding strategy, etcetera, from my experience are best performed by teams that include women engineers, who often have a capacity for empathy, observation and persistence.”


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