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The United States (U.S.) government has said there can never be any meaningful and sustainable economic growth and development without the inclusion of women.

It therefore called for inclusive participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in the country.

Its Consul-General in Nigeria, John Bray, spoke during a forum tagged: TechWomen Mentoring Programme for Nigerian Female STEM Leaders anchored by a 16-member delegation of senior tech executives and professionals from the Silicon Valley.

The group promotes STEM education and technology in the U.S. He lamented that many young women who pursue studies in STEM at tertiary institutions share stories of being grossly outnumbered by men.

He said: “In workplaces, women in STEM fields face discriminatory practices and behaviours from colleagues and supervisors including compensation at lower levels than male counterparts for their labour. They also generally lack opportunities for coaching, mentoring, and growth compared to their male colleagues.

“(But) here’s the blunt truth: without women’s inclusive participation, any gains in economic growth and development as well as advances in science and technology would be lopsided and unsustainable. Therefore, it is critical that women’s voices, at all levels, find representation in collaborative solutions that will have an impact on them.”

The envoy said the U.S. government is convinced that when barriers to women’s full participation in STEM fields are removed, women do better, families do better, countries do better, and the world does better. Whether at home or abroad, promoting women in STEM fields is a top priority of the U.S. government, he stated.

He recalled that when Ambassador Symington opened the American Space in Yaba in 2017, co-hosted by Co-Creation Hub (CCHUB), he pledged the U.S. government’s support for additional projects that might expand the use of technology in Nigeria.

He said the U.S. has since funded a number of projects to increase STEM education in different parts of the country. “In October 2017, we hosted RoboRAVE, a robotics education programme in Lagos and Abeokuta. Last December, we funded the establishment of a technology hub in Lagos that will host training and mentoring sessions for persons living with disabilities in various technology-based skills.

“The goal of encouraging the role of girls and women in STEM fields has been the cornerstone of the technology-learning programmes funded by the U.S. Mission in Nigeria,” Bray said.

According to him, more broadly, the U.S. has invested millions of dollars to directly advance gender equality across sub-Saharan Africa, through activities that promote political and economic opportunities for women, access to health and education services, and efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

He said in 2011, the U.S. government introduced the TechWomen programme to empower the next generation of women leaders in the technology field. This exchange programme brings together women in Northern California with their counterparts in the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria for a professional mentorship at leading technology companies in the U.S.

“I strongly encourage everyone here to think broadly about ways you or your organisations can form partnerships and expand your network as women STEM leaders,” Bray said.

He siaid members of the delegation represent organisations as diverse as Twitter, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Mozilla. Among them are also representatives of Autodesk, WomenCollege Tech, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Juniper Networks, FairrerSamani Group, Northgate Environmental Management, Jessica Dickinson Goodman Consulting, and the Institute of International Education.

He said: “The American consulate is pleased to sponsor this series of seminars and trainings by leading women technology leaders from Nigeria and the U.S. who are actively advocating for women in science, engineering, and technology. STEM education is the key foundation for any country’s economic success,” the envoy said.

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