Scientific and technological innovations are essential to stimulating faster economic growth, food security, environmental sustainability and effective medical research across the globe. However, with only 30 per cent of women and girls currently taking up roles in the field of science, there is a need for concerted efforts at socio-cultural and academic levels, geared towards increasing this number by encouraging more girls to take up science and ultimately close the gender gap and enrich the all-important field with the necessary diversity of thought patterns. Today, February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science; a day set aside to celebrate the very few and distinguished women in this sphere of endeavour.
While the United Nations Population Division estimates that there are 3.82 billion females compared to a global male population of 3.89 billion, only 30 per cent of the female population are participating in the most critical fields. This amounts to a stark underutilization of human resources.
Going by a 2017 research published by scientists at Amen Clinics, California, the female brain is more active in vital areas such as intuition and collaboration, which are useful in raising the standards of scientific and technological research, to expand the knowledge bank available to offset emerging global threats.
This explains the notable achievements of a fine generation of women who continue to make their marks in various scientific fields. From Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911 for her discovery of polonium and radium, to present day multiple award-winning Carolyn Bertozzi, a Massachusetts-based biochemist, who has provided powerful research tools for understanding the development of, and arresting, deadly diseases such as cancer and arthritis, the female gender group is spearheading remarkable developments that are transforming the world.
Removing the socio-cultural beliefs that tie the female gender perpetually to the home-front especially in many of the developing nations including Nigeria, would ensure more girls take up STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects during their formative academic years. As more girls explore the science fields, the workforce supply pipelines would be broadened to provide science-tech related agency chains with an abundant supply of brains that would serve as levers to collaboratively deepen the level of innovative solutions to many of the challenges confronting the nation in urban and rural settlements, be it in the areas of medical services delivery, agriculture, infrastructure development, power, housing, etc.
Incentivizing this overt female participation in the science field, asides removing the socio-cultural hurdles through continuous corporate uptake or employment and implementation of fair pay policies, will encourage more girls to take up STEM subjects. It would as well inspire the female scientists to continue to break new grounds, just like Bertozzi.
One firm that is driving the inclusion of more female scientists in its impressive workforce is Crown Flour Mill Limited, makers of Crown Premium Pasta, Mama Gold Flour and a strong line of semolina and Spaghetti brands. The consumer food manufacturer continuously demonstrates its support for gender equality in every aspect. This is in line with the diversity focus of its parent company, the Olam Group, which consistently strives to foster creativity, innovation and resilient supply chains by maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce. You will recall that Olam Nigeria was recently named an employer of choice in the African region, for 2021.
Ashish Pande, the Managing Director of Crown Flour Mill Nigeria, reiterated the business’ diversity focus when he said, “Crown Flour Mill Nigeria Limited is an equal opportunity employer. We strive to promote diversity and inclusiveness at all levels in our organization. This is because we strongly believe that a diversity of experience, culture and perspective is required to help our business excel.”
According to Pande, the women scientists who are part of Crown Flour Mill Limited’s value chain are quite remarkable and their combined wealth of experience and expertise is so invaluable to the organisation. They have worked their ways to the top in their chosen scientific fields through constant improvement and consistent delivery of quality services. One of such would be, Ms Unyime Usen, an engineer by training, a mid-level manager and one of CFM’s leading ladies in the science field. She is a British International Safety Organisation certified Electrical Engineer who is highly-experienced in Process & Instrumentation Maintenance. Her roles include planning and supervision of electrical maintenance activities at the operational levels of the business value chain.
By consistently delivering stellar performances in her roles, Ms Unyime ensures overall equipment efficiency along the production line. Her work further helps CFM to maximize overall output and reduce costly equipment maintenance.
As CFM is masterminding a major drive for gender inclusion along corporate value chains, Ms Unyime Usen who says her superpower is science, is undoubtedly a role model for many young girls who are currently taking STEM classes or studying for a degree in any of the science fields. Hence her contribution at CFM is driving change across the board. It also serves as a reminder to young ladies in the science fields – that if they are willing to work hard, they should be able to access the doors of opportunities and ultimately climb up top corporate ladders in top private and public world-class organisations such as CFM which prides in its people, processes and products.