Dr Alexander Graham, an Organic Chemist with the United States Agency for International Development, has called for encouragement of children to study science at the early stages of education.
She said support in the form of mentorship and career guidance at primary levels was necessary to arouse a deep passion for the discipline so they could build on throughout their education.
Dr Graham blamed the gender disparity in the sciences on cultural perception, explaining that the kind of socialisation children were exposed to culminated in their career perceptions and subsequent future preferences.
She was speaking with female participants from the science department of the West African Secondary School (WASS) in Accra at a Science Mentorship programme organised by Women in Science Exchange (WISE), sponsored by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).
The WISE Programme was launched earlier this year as a platform to convene undergraduates and high school science students with the Centre for Pharmaceutical Advancement Training (CePAT) Honorees and global Health Professionals across sub-Saharan Africa.
The initiative is to facilitate networking and mentee-mentor relationships to ignite students’ aspirations towards careers in drug regulation and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
It is also to produce capacity building and skill development through group mentorship for participating students, knowledge sharing workshops, career guidance trainings and internships.
The exchanges are also intended to “motivate and prepare the next generation of medicines’ quality champions to support Africa’s expanding pharmaceutical industry”.
Through the programme, female scientists would gain requisite skills and would network with accomplished professionals to accelerate their careers and contribute more effectively to support their countries.
The programme is currently being run on pilot basis with West African Senior High being the first school in the series.
Other schools to be engaged are the Accra High School and the University of Ghana School of Pharmacy. Mrs Erica Asante-Yeboah, the Senior Administrative Officer at USP Ghana, noted that the WISE Programme was to bridge the gap where there were fewer females in the pharmaceutical sector.
She said in addition to the exchange programme, there was also the CePAT Honours that aimed at recognising the efforts of women in public health.
These women would mentor mentee science female students, encouraging them with their personal and professional experiences as well as address mentee concerns regarding academic and career goals and development.