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Reasons why women avoid careers in science, technology and engineering




By age six, girls are already less likely to join an activity said to be for brilliant children

Women are grossly under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers despite solid gains in the share of females graduating from university in the fields, reveals a NationNewsplex review of jobs and education data.

Only one in three doctors is a woman. Slightly more than a third (35 percent) of the 6,664 doctors and dentists registered with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) by 2018 are women.

Unesco figures indicate that the representation of women researchers is also low in other science fields in Kenya, including natural sciences (14 percent), and engineering and technology (11 percent). Even though women provide 80 percent of farm labour in Kenya, they make up less than a third of agricultural scientists.

As the world marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the exclusion of women from STEM is not unique to Kenya but common around the world. Women account for just 28 percent of global researchers but the figure masks wide variations between countries and regions, according to Unesco data (2014 – 2016).

In East Africa, barriers facing female researchers include difficulty in travelling to conferences or in participating in field work, on the assumption that they are the primary caregivers at home.

Each step up the ladder of scientific research, work and decision-making sees a drop in female participation. For instance, only one in four of the about 2,500 active specialist doctors (e.g. cardiologists, oncologists and gynaecologists) in Kenya is a woman.

Just three of 18 major science and policy-based research organisations in Kenya are headed by women − the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (the chief executive officer is serving in an acting capacity).

One in six university and university college heads is a woman. A deeper dive into the degree courses offered by the universities shows that only four of the women were at the helm of the 12 universities that offer a wide range of STEM courses. They were Egerton University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Technical University of Mombasa and Kirinyaga University (acting VC).

A look at what is coming down the pipe suggests that a lot more effort is needed to smash gender bias and enable girls and women to access and excel in science. Figures from the Commission for University Education indicate that a third (33 percent) of university students enrolled in STEM courses are women. The presence of women varies according to the field of study. In 2015, at the undergraduate level, the share of female students’ enrolment was particularly low in the clusters of manufacturing (16 percent), engineering (17 percent) and computing (22 percent). But there was near gender parity in the health and welfare cluster (49 percent).
When it comes to graduation rates, gender parity was nearly achieved among students who graduated in health and welfare with undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. Two in five graduates in life and physical sciences, and forestry and agriculture were women.

Further down in the academic ladder boys continue to outshine girls in science and math. In the 2018 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination girls beat boys in metal work only and lagged behind in the other science and technology-related courses, including biology, chemistry, computer studies, electricity, general science, mathematics, physics, power mechanics, agriculture, and aviation.

Persisting biases and gender stereotypes drive girls and women away from science-related fields. These biases set in early in life. The results of a study published in 2017 in the journal Science showed that by age six, girls are already less likely than boys to describe their own gender as “brilliant”, and less likely to join an activity said to be for “very, very smart” children. The study found that just one year earlier, at age five, children seemed not able to differentiate between boys and girls in expectations of “really, really smart”—childhood’s version of adult brilliance.

Another study in the same year by Microsoft surveyed 9,500 teenage girls in nine European countries on their attitudes toward STEM. It found that most lose interest by the time they turn 14. Even in Finland, the only country where girls are more likely than boys to be top performers in science, two-thirds of female teens said they see the natural sciences as important, but just slightly more than a third said they would consider a career in that area.


Among the reasons given by the 11 to 18-year-olds who took part in the study on why they did not select STEM courses was lack of female role models in the sectors. Almost two-thirds said they would feel more confident pursuing a career in STEM fields if they knew men and women were equally employed in those professions. Others said they were not getting enough practical, hands-on experience with the subjects.

According to Unesco, past national reviews of women’s representation in science in Latin America refer to obstacles relating to the work-life balance and disadvantages for women in science and research who are expected to manage the household and put in full-time, and even overtime, at the same rates as men.
As in the real world, the world in movies reflects similar biases, according to a study conducted in 10 most profitable movie territories internationally (Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom) as reported by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The 2015 Gender Bias Without Borders study by the Geena Davis Institute showed that of the on-screen characters with an identifiable STEM job, less than 12 percent were women.

A 2018 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum covering 20 countries, which collectively represent 70 percent of the Global Gross Domestic Product, concluded that millions of jobs will be lost to disruptive labour market changes from 2015-2020 with an overwhelming majority of new future jobs requiring STEM skills.

Some countries and regions have proven that it is possible to break down the barriers that hold them back from achieving gender parity in STEM. Women researchers have attained gender parity in Southeast Europe (49 percent). South Asia is the region where women make up the smallest proportion of researchers − 17 percent, 13 percentage points below sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, in many countries and regions, women dominate the broad fields of health and welfare but not the rest of the sciences. They are least likely to feature among engineering graduates yet there are also exceptions to the rule. In Oman, for example, women constitute more than half (53 per cent) of engineering graduates.

The second-most popular field of STEM for women is science. The share of women studying science matches men in many Latin American and Arab countries. In the 10 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean, females make up 45 percent or more of tertiary graduates in science. In Guatemala, as much as three-quarters of science graduates are female. Eleven out of 18 Arab states also have a majority of female science graduates.

The Malaysian information technology (IT) sector is made up equally of women and men, with large numbers of women employed as university professors and in the private sector.

Much of sub-Saharan Africa is witnessing gains in the share of women among tertiary graduates in scientific fields. South Africa and Zimbabwe have almost achieved parity among science graduates, with 49 percent and 47 percent respectively.

The share of female engineers is fairly high in some sub-Saharan Africa countries compared to other regions. In Mozambique and South Africa, women make up about a third of engineering graduates.

Unesco reports that a combination of factors reduces the proportion of women at each stage of a scientific career. A study conducted in 2008 of the career intentions of graduate students in chemistry in the UK found that almost three-quarters of women had planned to become researchers at the start of their studies but, by the time they completed their PhD, only a third still harboured this career goal.

The study found that female students were more likely to encounter problems with their supervisor, such as favouritism or victimisation, or to feel that their supervisor was insensitive to their personal life, or to feel isolated from their research group. They were also put off by discomfort in the research culture of their group in terms of working patterns, work hours and competition among peers. Many of them also spoke of having been advised against pursuing a scientific career, owing to the challenges they would face as women.

In East Africa, barriers facing female researchers include difficulty in travelling to conferences or in participating in field work, on the assumption that they are the primary caregivers at home.

According to Unesco, changing the current system of performance appraisals and rewards to accommodate women’s child-bearing years without obliging them to sacrifice their careers is the single most important step towards rectifying this imbalance.



Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –




Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

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Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

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Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard




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