In the midst of the technological revolution, the importance of STEM skills in our daily lives cannot be overstated. It is a fact acknowledged by leaders and educators alike. In line with this, President Jokowi emphasized the need to prepare for Industry 4.0, estimating that Indonesia will require a staggering 9 million digital talents by 2030 (source: Kompas, 2020).
However, there is a glaring gender disparity in STEM education in Indonesia. Currently, female students make up a mere 2% of the total enrollment in Vocational High Schools (SMK) with STEM-based programs (source: PDSP Kemdikbud, 2015). This underrepresentation is fueled by gender stereotypes that deter women from pursuing STEM careers. According to a study conducted by UNESCO and the Korea Women’s Development Institute in 2015, 61% of women factor in gender stereotypes when considering their career options. Additionally, 50% of women express reduced interest in STEM fields due to the perception that these domains are male-dominated, with 45% believing STEM is not suitable for them. Shockingly, this study also reveals that only 2 out of every 10 professionals and 3 out of every 10 researchers in STEM fields are women. In essence, women’s participation in STEM is a mere 30% of the workforce (source: BPS, 2017).
Recognizing the urgency to bridge this gender gap in STEM, YCAB Foundation, in collaboration with ORICA, launched the Women Engineers program in 2022. This initiative is designed to provide young women with the same opportunities as their male counterparts in STEM industries.
The Women Engineers program is targeting 100 science teachers at SMA/SMK (Senior High Schools/Vocational High Schools) and their equivalents, along with 7,000 female students from these institutions, inspiring them to explore careers in STEM. The program includes training for science teachers, delivered through, face-to-face and utilizes an online gamification approach to engage female students. This program is set to span over three years, focusing on the East Kalimantan region, particularly Samarinda City, Kutai Kartanegara Regency, and East Kutai District.
To further enhance the knowledge and aspirations of female students in STEM, a series of follow-up activities are planned. After completing the training via online gamification, the students will have the opportunity to participate in Career Day activities. These events will be conducted in a face-to-face format, inviting professional women working in the mining sector to share their experiences and engage in discussions with the female students in East Kalimantan.
The Women Engineers program by YCAB Foundation and Orica represents a crucial step towards breaking down the barriers that have historically hindered women’s participation in STEM fields. Through targeted education and inspirational activities, this program aims to empower the next generation of female engineers and scientists, ensuring they have equal access to the exciting and ever-evolving world of STEM.