(Cloackwise) Charles Whiteley, Rasheda K Chowdhury, Rubana Huq, Lafifa Jamal, Tahmina Yesmin and Frank Fecher
Porthom Alo

Speakers at a roundtable has laid emphasis on technology education for women aimed at increasing the participation of women in technology.

Women are discouraged from learning technology education because of an old age perception that science and technology are difficult.

Women were given the burden of many social responsibilities and prevented from joining technology jobs by family, that is why social perception towards women must change to achieve equality in technology, the discussants said.

The discussants made these recommendations at an roundtable on “Women in STEM Education: Breaking Barriers and Achieving Gender Parity in Technology and Innovation” at Prothom Alo office in Karwan Bazar, Dhaka on Tuesday.

GIZ Bangladesh and Prothom Alo organised the event in association with European Union (EU) and UN Women and Devtale Partners.

Addressing the event, ambassador and head of delegation of the European Union (EU) to Bangladesh, Charles Whiteley, said women still lag behind in obtaining graduation in technology and engineering across the world and the participation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is 8 per cent only.

Since Bangladesh gives priority on gender equality in taking economic decision, it is necessary to increase the involvement of women in green energy sector, and in this case, responsibility on women to take care of children, socio-cultural perception and women owning no money are the big barriers, Charles Whiteley noted suggesting increase of women entrepreneurship through involving girls in technology education, raising awareness and providing loan assistance.

Former caretaker government advisor Rasheda K Chowdhury said an emphasis should be given on the increase of participation of women in STEM education. It is necessary to collect scientific data to understand the state of women in STEM education and what plans need to be formulated to solve these problems, she added.

Asian University for Women (AUW) vice-chancellor Rubana Huq said a radical reform is essential in education to bring equality in technology and education activities should be run in accordance with the demand of employment.

STEM education should be emphasised at the primary level, she said adding, no one will fix the place for women as long as women will not be vocal for women and women will stand beside women.

GIZ Bangladesh coordinator (energy programme) Frank Fecher mentioned the low participation of women in the power and energy sector, and highlighted the need for understanding the challenges they face in order to eliminate the disparity.

Tahmina Yeasmin, joint secretary of ministry of power, energy and mineral resources, said the government emphasises on gender equality in its budget plan and women must bargain to achieve their rights and they must achieve this capacity.

Professor of Robotics and Mechatronics Engineering department, University of Dhaka, Lafifa Jamal emphasised on the change of social perception. There is a social perception that anything that is difficult is not for women. Besides, many families only allow boys to study science to reduce expenses and girls must be encouraged to study STEM education from childhood, she added.

UN Women programme specialist Dilruba Haider said people concerned must strike on the social barriers over participation of women in technology. Many girls still don’t own a mobile phone as a gender gap of 29 per cent exists in this case.

Startup Bangladesh managing director Sami Ahmed observed there is no option for women to lag behind in the age of artificial intelligence and participation of women cannot be increased without creating family and social awareness.

Bangladesh Women in Technology (BWIT) director Kaniz Fatema said there are lots of opportunities for freelancing in the post-Covid-19 period and if a woman learns technological skills she can earn at home from freelancing.

Aspire to Innovate (a2i) programme gender Specialist Nahid Sharmin said 80 per cent of jobs will depend on digital technology by 2030 and that is why women must be included in technology to build the Smart Bangladesh.

Prothom Alo associate editor Sumona Sharmin said, “There is a written women policy at Prothom Alo and we follow it.”

Prothom Alo associated editor Abdul Quayum delivered the welcome address at the event. He said development of the country will be much easier as many as people will participate in science and technology.

World Bank Bangladesh office’s energy specialist Tanuja Bhattacharjee, Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) executive vice president Farzana Rahman, Devtale Partners chief impact officer Arif Raihan and GIZ Bangladesh advisor Ananya Rubayat also spoke at the event while Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury moderated it.