Lack of safe transport limits girls in STEM

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The inability to get home safely could be a hindrance for girls entering a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

This was discussed on Thursday – Women in Stem Day – during the US Embassy’s Virtual Coffee and Chat live on Facebook.

Acting public affairs officer Nori Nelia spoke with Dr Kerneisha Skeete – a graduate of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill with a bachelors in surgery and medicine, and Akila Valentine – information technology teacher at Corpus Christi College, Diego Martin about obstacles hindering girls from studying STEM.

Women in STEM Day recognises the achievements women have made in science and seeks to inspire girls.

Valentine said safely transporting her students to events is an issue she has to consider as a teacher. Girls may want to take part in events like science camps, hackathons and after-school programmes, but their parents would not be able to pick them up.

She said those organising such events should ensure there are options such as carpooling or shuttles.

“It is your event, and you won’t have the event without the participants. I think you should go the extra effort to ensure that they remain safe. This is a big issue, especially in Trinidad recently. It is something that you can’t ignore and assume that it would just go away on its own,” Valentine said.

She is hosting a Caribbean girls’ hackathon from February 8-March 31. A hackathon is a competition where computer programmers have a fixed date to solve a problem using software.

Valentine said though the programme has already started, it is still open to interested girls. The hackathon infuses creativity with technology to solve problems such as climate change, ending gender-based violence and saving the ocean from pollution.

She wants girls to learn that by studying STEM they have access to a wide range of creative career options and they are not limited to just being software programmers if they study computer science.

Skeet uses public transport frequently as an adult, and also did so when she was in school. She said people in her community offered to drive her around to events, which helped her access after-school programmes.

Skeete attended an all-girls’ secondary school and her classmates’ parents were instrumental in ensuring she participated in after-school activities.

“They were making sure I was able to get home safely. I was able to rely on community and other strong women in the network. That was very important.”

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