Female teachers in scientific, technical and vocational education

The proportion of female secondary teachers has risen from 29% in 1985 to approximately 32% in the 1990s in Zimbabwe. However their participation in science teaching is lower than that of men. Reports in Zimbabwe show that the total staff in technical-vocational institutions increased by 39% between 1990 and 1993; male staff increased 40% while female staff increased only 28% and therefore in the period under review the proportion of male staff remained relatively constant at 89% and females at 11%.

Female secondary school teachers in Namibia are mostly involved in Biology rather than in physical science and mathematics, and there are only 23% female teachers involved in the profession of science education. Women represent 29% of technical and profession teachers in secondary schools in Mali. The same picture in seen in the field of teacher training, for example, at the Teacher Training College in Chad, there is only one women out of the 12 science teachers.

There are not enough scientific and technically qualified teachers in Burundi, there were only 0.9% teachers in science and technology per class in 1992/93. In addition, only 20% of women who finish the primary cycle have access to the secondary and to technical teaching and this figure decreases to less than 5% in careers considered masculine. Girls opt for short cycle courses in terms of professions in Togo and only 1.57% go to the industrial sector. Also in certain schools in Togo there are only 3 teachers for all the scientific disciplines. Even though there were 31% female technical teachers in Togo, there were none in engineering, plumbing, auto mechanics and electronics. A lot of girls are in the management and health sectors in Benin and even though they represent 29% of the total professional and technical teaching, they are in fashion and hotel business and absent from industry. Women represented 8.5% of the teaching staff in vocational training in Tanzania in 1996.

Only 12.69% entered the technical and professional teaching in Nigeria in 1995 and 40% in private school teaching, bookkeeping, accounting, administration and 30% in car mechanics. Only a small proportion of women is technicians or instructors. At the College of Education while more female staff were employed in business education, building education and computer science between 1990/1993, the number of female staff in areas such as woodwork, agricultural science, electrical/electronics, physics and mathematics is still quite low.

Not all reports present data on science and technical teacher training. However, what emerges from available data is that there is a trend for women to predominate in technical teaching training for home science and are rarely found in technical teacher training colleges or courses that prepare teachers in engineering, masonry, carpentry and electrical studies. Hence the participation of males was higher than that of females in these technical/vocational institutes. In addition enrolment in agricultural teacher education programmes in 1995, which come under the vocational/technical education category, has a higher level of male than female participation.

University level science and technology education

The low representation of girls at secondary levels has repercussions at the university level. There has been a general increase in enrolments in behavioural science, social science and education as compared to engineering, architecture, mathematics and even agricultural studies. The low participation of females in agricultural studies is highlighted in those countries where agricultural activities predominate and women are the backbone of the agricultural labour force and thus largely responsible for the food security of the country.

Two main points emerge from the examination of university-level education in Africa. First and foremost there is a lower participation rate of females in science and technology courses at the university level. Secondly, there has been at the same time, a general increase in enrolment in these fields e.g. in Togo and Swaziland, although the percentage or number has doubled, the percentage of girls is still low compared to that of boys. There is a general lack of diplomas in Mathematics and Physics on the national plan in Togo, generally girls follow the channels of literacy. There were no girls in the Centre for Computing and Calculations, 2.15% at the University of Agronomy and only 6.52% at the University for Engineers. There is an opposite tendency in Benin, in 1986 girls represented 17% of students at university and only 15% today.

The percentage enrolment of students in science and technology courses in Nigerian Universities, show that females occupy the lower proportion in all the disciplines. In terms of trends, there is a definitive but small increase in the number of girls enrolled in science based courses between 1985 and 1992. For instance, in agriculture, female enrolments increased from 13% (1985/86) to 23% (1992), while in Engineering it increased from 5.4% (1985/86) to 10.9% (1991/92). Enrolment rates for women have generally increased over recent years in Zimbabwe and Kenya. The percentage of women enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe increased from 22.4% (1985) to 26.6% (1993) and in Kenya enrolments increased from 25.8% (1990) to 30% (1993). In Kenya in the 1990/91 academic year 18.7% of the girls enrolled for the undergraduate courses in Medicine, 23% in pharmacy, 36% in dental surgery, 21% in agriculture and 16% in science. The enrolment in rngineering and architecture was only 5%. During the same period, for the post-graduate courses, only 22% of the girls enrolled in medicine, 31% in dental surgery, 25% in agriculture, 17% in science and 1% in engineering.

However, in all countries female enrolment by discipline follows the typical pattern of higher female representation in the social and behavioural science and education as compared to engineering, architecture and mathematics. In these faculties female enrolments in Zimbabwe range from 6.8% in engineering to a high of 36.6% in medicine. In the other faculties female enrolment ranges from 33.2% in commerce and 40% in law. In Uganda, at University level, medicine, food science and technology are among the subjects where the enrolment of women has grown in number over the past five years. The engineering, forestry and veterinary medicine have had lower enrolment growth rates in 1991.

The actual figures from Ghana show, that on an average, a slight increase in enrolment is visible over the years. In 1994, women constituted 5,8% in science related departments at the University of Ghana, 11.5% at the University of Science and Technology, 4.7% at the University of Cape Coast and 7.5% at the University College of Education, Winneba.

In 1995/96 women represented 27.49% of total students at the University of Burundi, but their participation in science is still low, only 3.9% are in applied sciences and they are not attracted by electromechanics, civil engineering, geology and agronomy. Most of the women are found in institutes of short cycles e.g. Institute of Commerce. In Senegal and Burundi only 12.9% of women are found in University of Agriculture courses and less than 10% in the Faculty of Agronomy Sciences in Benin. It is worth drawing attention to this low representation of women in such key sector of the country for it is in agriculture that the majority of women work.

The numbers provided by Chad were modest and eloquent on the situation of girls in the Faculty of Exact Sciences: no women in the second year of mathematics-physics and physics-chemistry for 1995/6 and 4 women in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

On an average in all the countries under survey, there are very few women enrolled in the Natural Sciences, Engineering or Agricultural studies at University level. Unfortunately no data were available for Tanzania, Madagascar and South Africa for these disciplines. Available data on the percentage ratio of women in Engineering and Agricultural Sciences at Universities indicate that with the exception of Uganda (17%) all the other countries show less than 10% participation of women in Engineering.

Current trends in employment opportunities for girls and women

 In general, women have been more affected by the economic recession than men. Work in the car industry is now encouraged and women are therefore pushed into avenues of enterprise and building. The Senegalese Government has now encouraged both women and men to initiate private enterprise and to set up individual entrepreneurship to realise their objectives.

All the reports mention that there is a disparity in employment opportunities in the countries under review between men and women and that most women are in occupations with low earnings. The history of discrimination against them, the poor access to education and training and unfavourable patriarchal societal attitudes towards the status of women affect their chances for employment. Cultural, patriarchal traditions but also the lack of education makes access to employment virtually impossible. In many countries formal sector employment opportunities have declined and as a result, there is an unprecedented growth of the informal sector where a greater proportion of women are involved. The employment opportunities are non-existent in Togo and Benin therefore at least 90% of women are in the informal sector. Women represent 6% in the private sector in Benin and even as the public sector is concerned there are now very few in the development, equipment and transport ministry.

The informal sector has also become an important source of employment for women in Ghana because of the government's Structural Adjustment Programme. Women have been affected directly by the retrenchment and they have not benefited much from the World Bank's initiated programmes even though women generally are covered under policies for poverty alleviation. Economic circumstances in this country are modifying gender assigned roles both at home and in the labour market and current trends show a break-through of what used to be the status quo. The Ghana report refers to the Nyanteng study into females in trades traditionally occupied by men, "females are now venturing into these skills because of the need to diversify their skills in order to survive and support their families (27). Women are now found in every aspect of auto-industry, construction, welding refrigeration, photography etc. Some have found their way into driving commercial vehicles. Most young girls and women are involved in small-scale petty trading, cottage industry and traditional trades like dressmaking and catering. An increasing number of girls and women are now entering non-traditional technical trades. The main concentration is auto industry (52%), auto spray (38%) auto mechanics (8%), auto electrical (5%) carpentry (4.3%), plumbing (3.8%) and welding (3.3%).

There is very little employment for uneducated women in Burundi. In rural areas women form co-operatives and are mainly illiterate. They represent 40% in the public service and the majority is in the health and education sector. In Chad 25% women are in the public services, any other data is unavailable at the moment.

According to the World Bank, in Malawi (28), the majority of women are not employable because they lack skills. Women are found in food and beverage processing, pottery and beer brewing, and only 25% of tailoring using machines are women. Apart from those who are teachers, nurses and secretaries, there is a small fraction in other professional and business fields.

However, positive trends in employment are reported for Kenya and Zambia. Since Kenya’s independence, the number of women in wage employment has risen from 12% in 1964 to 21% in 1987. In Zambia the percentage of women employed in the category of professional, technical and related fields has increased by 15 percent between 1986 and 1993.

In some countries women are found in greater numbers in agriculture. In Malawi and Zambia, the majority of women is subsistence farmers (83.7%) and have had no specialized training. Likewise women make up a large percentage (59.3%) of all the employed persons in agriculture related occupations in Zimbabwe. In the developing regions of the world, employment trends are notoriously difficult to analyse because of the very large agriculture and informal sectors, but there are signs that women are steadily increasing their share of non-agricultural employment (14). In many countries women are regarded as cheap labour and tend to be concentrated in unskilled jobs with few if any social rights.

Employment opportunities for women in scientific and technological fields

Employment opportunities for women in scientific and technological fields have been very low, and the TWOWS 1996 survey of Southern African countries (14), notably revealed that women are under represented in many science based occupations. Formal employment for women is limited and where it occurs, it is largely in the informal agricultural sector. In the formal sector, women still work in large numbers primarily in occupations such as nursing, teaching, sales and clerical or secretarial. Thus they are under-represented in highly specialized occupations such as mining, communication, medicine, informatics, engineering and the computer industry.

Not all the reports of the present survey mention the situation of women in scientific and technological occupations. However, the existing data confirms the tendency of the above-mentioned TWOWS survey. In Zimbabwe, only 5% of Engineers and Technicians are women. In Mining and Construction, women make up 7% of the labour force. Only 1% of mechanics and less than 10% of machine operators are women. These occupations seem to be gender-typed against women in comparison to education, social science, clerical and secretarial occupations where females represent 35% of the labour force. Although their numbers have increased between 1985 and 1991, only 8.0% of women are employed in the construction sector in Swaziland. Employment opportunities in Zambia are very low for educated women: natural sciences (0.8%); surgery (0.56); veterinary (0.05); food, drink processing (0.6%); agriculture, forestry, fisheries (1.0%).

Inequalities in South Africa's labour market ran both along racial and gender lines. Because of these inequalities, whites dominated all science and engineering fields. In 1983, White scientists and engineers made up 92% of the workforce, and black scientists and engineers only 8%. In 1990, Whites made up 82% and blacks 19% of the local science and engineering workforce. .The share of blacks in the country's engineering workforce rose from 1.4% in 1983 to 4% in 1990. Traditionally there are very few female engineers as compared with male engineers. In 1990, for every one female engineer there were 78 male engineers. In 1983 the science and technology workforce was composed of 81% males and only 19% females. The situation changed slightly in 1990, where males constituted 72% and females 28% of the workforce. Although males still dominated the workforce in the field of science, the number of female scientists increased in the country. In 1990 women made up 34,3% of the science workforce. Large increases in the number of female scientists occurred in agriculture, mathematical and computer sciences.

Current labour statistics for Nigeria indicate the same trend with the proportion of females employed in professional and scientific jobs having risen from 21.2% in 1991 to 22.8% in 1992, while those employed in scientific and technical jobs rose from 20.9% (1991) to 22.3% (1992).

Women Staff in Scientific Institutions

Women are under-represented in teaching at scientific institutions and at the higher levels of academia in Science and Technology.

At the University of Burundi science is taught exclusively by men, women representing only 5% of the technical teaching. Likewise there were no women staff in chemistry, physics and mathematics at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana in 1995 and only one woman teaches biology at the University in Nigeria. In addition at the University of Nigeria, the proportion of female lecturers in science based disciplines is not only low but has either remained static or dropped. In engineering/technology the percentage has stayed below 3.0% while in Veterinary Medicine it has dropped from 5.6% to 2.2% between 1988 and 1992. At the University of Zimbabwe male staff increased 76% and female staff decreased 17% so that overall, male increased from 85% to 92% while female staff decreased from 15% to 8%. The National University of Science and Technology has predominantly male staff (86%) compared to females (14%).

The Tanzania Report on the study into gender participation in engineering and science areas 1990-1993 (29), concludes by stating that "while efforts to increase absolute number have yielded positive results, the same cannot be said for efforts to close the gap between males and females. Indeed, the proportion of females has remained at nearly a constant and disappointedly low level. "

Women scientists at the workplace

In examining the situation of women and girls in science it is also necessary to bring the experience of women scientists at the work place. This is in view of the observation that while indeed some women are willing and capable of pursuing an education in the sciences there still exist numerous bottlenecks which hinder their success at developing their careers and sometimes in responding to the demands of their work situation. The few women who take careers in science based areas cannot therefore be fully exploited to satisfy national development.

According to Obatulo in her presentation at the UNESCO sub-regional workshop on scientific, technical and vocational education of girls in Africa (9), characteristics demanded of a scientist at the work place generally include among others the following: inquisitiveness, a questioning mind, readiness to form an opinion from logic and fact, innovativeness, adeptness and carefulness, a problem-identifying and problem-shooting mind, a persevering attitude, consistency and attention to time as it relates to tasks.

These characteristics are, however, in conflict with some socio-cultural and religious influences which expect the opposite of many of these behavioural traits such that the general attitude of society towards women is not supportive of women scientists. Society's attitude in general, stereotypes women into certain job categories, and expects them to carry the socio-cultural portrayal to the work place, pities or despise them if they do not conform, or simply punishes them by ignoring, embarrassing, resisting or castigating them. In turn, partly as a result of this, the woman herself may suffer from self-pity, lack of esteem, shys away or is downright fearful. Career development becomes secondary and they generally feel they are a special case to be condoned in everything. On technical matters, women may remain unexposed suffering from a bias in favor of men. Amenities at work may also not support the needs of women and these may be such things as sanitary amenities, childcare facilities and transport conveniences for nursing mothers. Women could therefore be forced into choosing convenience jobs and responsibilities in which their true talents may not be fully expressed. Ironically though, in these conveniently chosen jobs they may make a workplace establishment very stable, as often women tend not to be bothered about or are not expected to aspire to higher or new positions elsewhere. However, due to the socio-cultural influences, this stability, or the lack of it, is highly governed by the career and movement of their spouses.

Another important influence is biological. There is a natural competition between reproduction and productivity at the work place which affects women because they need to advance their careers in the years when their reproductive potential is highest. Child rearing is also a female domain which should be seen as part of nation-building but in fact it costs women their careers.

The net effect is that input by women into their work is heavily taxed and their performance where outputs are measured by tangible and time-bound results is jeopardized. Their advancement is therefore slow and they may face stiff competition from more junior staff.