SheSTEM Launch Event

Bridging the Gender Gap in STEM: SheSTEM Program Launches Business Case Report

In Bangladesh, the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields remains a significant challenge, with only 14% female participation in such roles. This disparity reflects broader gender inequalities in education and the workforce, impacting the country’s potential for inclusive economic development.

The SheSTEM Business Case Report, based on insights from over 700 STEM students, presents a compelling case to stakeholders on the importance of investing in women in STEM. The report explores the obstacles female STEM professionals face in Bangladesh and offers strategic solutions to address these challenges.

On Wednesday, 8th May, Her Excellency Irma van Dueren, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh, and Honorable State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications, and Information Technology, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, came together to launch the SheSTEM Business Case Report. 

The event included an interactive panel discussion titled “How Private and Public Organizations, Universities, and Development Partners Can Strengthen Female STEM Participation,” attended by representatives from the private sector, academia, and the embassy.

The program also featured a keynote presentation highlighting the report’s findings. Furthermore, the event welcomed SheSTEM collaborators, including key academic and industry partners, underscoring a strengthened commitment to advancing gender equality in STEM education and career opportunities.

SheSTEM Launch Event

The Honorable State Minister, Zunaid Ahmed Palak (Chief Guest), MP, Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications, and Information Technology, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, delivered the opening speech

The Honorable State Minister emphasized the critical importance of gender equity for Bangladesh, reflecting on the visionary legacy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He stated, “Inspired by Bangabandhu’s vision, we strive for equitable distribution of scientific advancements to foster global equity and peace.”

The State Minister highlighted the transformative impact witnessed over the past 15 years, particularly under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Initiatives like ‘She Power’ and ‘Her Power’ have empowered thousands of women, catalyzing their journey as freelancers and entrepreneurs, and significantly contributing to our national economy.

Looking ahead, the State Minister reaffirmed the commitment to equipping the next generation with frontier technology skills to lead Bangladesh towards a smart and innovative future.

SheSTEM Launch Event

Her Excellency Irma van Dueren, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh delivered the inauguration speech at the SheSTEM Business Case Launch Event

During her address, Her Excellency emphasized the Netherlands’ commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment, underscoring the potential of initiatives like SheSTEM to advance the vision of Smart Bangladesh championed by Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

She highlighted the importance of creating opportunities and a supportive environment for women to contribute equally in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) sector, thereby fostering national development.

SheSTEM Launch Event

From left to right: Munzereen Shahid, Chief Instructor, 10 Minute School; Raisul Kabir, Founder, and CEO of Brain Station 23; Farhana Hossain Shammu, Lead of Grameenphone Academy; Md Ashim Rahman, Business Development Advisor from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Dr. Mahmuda Naznin, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET); and Afia Siddika Raisa, Civil Engineering student at BUET

The panel discussion, moderated by Munzereen Shahid, Chief Instructor of 10 Minute School, featured esteemed representatives from various sectors. Participants included Md Ashim Rahman, Business Development Advisor from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Raisul Kabir, Founder and CEO of Brain Station 23; Farhana Hossain, Lead of Grameenphone Academy; Dr. Mahmuda Naznin, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET); and Afia Siddika Raisa, a Civil Engineering student at BUET.

Throughout the panel, a key challenge addressed was the underutilization of women in STEM, which poses economic risks such as job stagnation and low productivity in global markets. The discussion also explored potential solutions to this challenge. Here are some highlights:

  • Md. Ashim Rahman emphasized the significance of private sector involvement in collaborative efforts to empower women in STEM. He stressed the importance of mentorship, recognition of women in STEM, and providing them with awards, scholarships, and grant opportunities.
  • Raisul Kabir highlighted the lack of inspiration and societal pressure discouraging girls from pursuing STEM fields. He underscored the role of academia in altering societal perceptions and motivating girls to pursue STEM from a young age.
  • Farhana Hossain Shammu emphasized Grameenphone’s commitment to gender inclusivity and the need for greater gender-inclusive policies in the private sector. She also encouraged students to enhance their skill sets to meet industry demands while mentioning the resources that can be leveraged through Grameenphone Academy.
  • Dr. Mahmuda Naznin discussed the need for more female faculty members and strategic policies to encourage women to pursue STEM education. She advocated for national plans focusing on scholarships, grants, and facilities to increase the number of female STEM graduates.
  • Afia Siddika Raisa stressed the importance of changing societal perceptions of women in STEM through awareness campaigns and early childhood education. She highlighted the role of families in promoting gender inclusivity and equity.

The panel concluded with the consensus that cross-sectoral collaboration is essential for bridging the gender gap in STEM fields. They advocated for a national STEM policy that promotes women in STEM through scholarships, grants, equitable recruitment practices, mentorship opportunities, skill enhancement, and awareness campaigns.

In his closing remarks, Md Ashim Rahman reiterated, “The only way to build an inclusive society is through synergy; working together is the only option.”

The event included a keynote presentation by Ameera Fairooz, Business Consultant at LightCastle Partners, who explored the key findings of the business case report.

The report sheds light on a significant challenge: the low representation of women in STEM fields, particularly in tertiary education and the workforce. This disparity is evident in enrollment rates, where females are notably underrepresented, especially in engineering disciplines.

Various barriers contribute to this gender gap, including societal expectations, limited access to quality education, and entrenched gender stereotypes.

Insights from the report reveal that female students often lack confidence in their job prospects post-graduation and express a strong desire for practical exposure and industry-relevant topics in the curriculum.

Global best practices, such as the Netherlands National Action Plan and India’s National Education Policy, offer valuable models for addressing these challenges.

To tackle these issues, the proposed intervention, the SheSTEM program, adopts a comprehensive approach. This initiative aims to equip women with employability skills, foster closer ties between academia and industry, and collaborate with the public sector.

Key activities under the program encompass workshops, mentorship programs, online courses focusing on business and communication skills, and tech competitions. Furthermore, partnerships with stakeholders will be leveraged to establish a direct talent pipeline and develop co-created solutions.

This collaborative effort will benefit employers by accessing fresh talent, universities by enhancing academic offerings, and contribute to gender inclusion in traditionally male-dominated sectors.

SheSTEM Launch Event

Ameera Fairooz, Business Consultant at LightCastle Partners, presented the key findings of the Business Case Report

Furthermore, the program welcomed key academic and industry collaborators, demonstrating a strengthened commitment to advancing gender equality in STEM through education and career opportunities.

The academic partners include the East West University Career Counseling Center, BRAC University School of Data and Sciences, North South University Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Women in Engineering, Dhaka University MIS Department, and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology Career Center. 

The corporate partners comprise BrainStation 23, LAXFO Electronics Limited and Neural Semiconductor (both sister concerns of DBL Group), Grameenphone Academy, Intelligent Machines, Knit Asia, Praava Health, ShareTrip, and Sheba XYZ. This collective effort underscores a collaborative approach toward fostering gender diversity and inclusivity in STEM fields.

SheSTEM Launch Event
SheSTEM Launch Event
SheSTEM Launch Event
SheSTEM Launch Event

The concluding segment included Ayman Sadiq, Founder and CEO of 10 Minute School, sharing his reflections on the event and outlining upcoming initiatives 10MS has in the pipeline to enhance skill development for STEM graduates. 

Lastly, Md. Shamsul Arefin (Special Guest), Secretary to the ICT Division, delivered the closing speech, emphasizing the critical role of inclusivity and empowerment in Bangladesh’s STEM landscape.

He underscored the importance of women’s participation in realizing the objectives of “Smart Bangladesh” and commended the insightful discussions led by distinguished speakers. Arefin emphasized the necessity of collaborative efforts to address challenges and transform them into opportunities, as demonstrated by the signing of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with universities and corporate partners.

SheSTEM Launch Event

From Left to Right: Honorable State Minister, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications, and Information Technology, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Her Excellency Irma van Dueren, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh; Md Mamunur Rashid Bhuiyan, Additional Secretary and Project Director at  a2i, ICT Division

The successful launch of the SheSTEM Business Case Report represents a significant milestone in addressing the gender gap in Bangladesh’s STEM fields. The event, attended by distinguished dignitaries including Her Excellency Irma van Dueren and Honorable State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak, demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing gender equality and empowerment in STEM education and careers. 

Implemented by the SheSTEM consortium of 10 Minute SchoolAspire to Innovate (a2i), DevLearn,  LightCastle Partners, and Policy Exchange Bangladesh SheSTEM is committed to inspiring, educating, and empowering women to pursue rewarding careers in STEM.

The program aspires to enhance industry-academia collaborations, increase employability skills, and advocate for gender-equitable practices in Bangladesh.


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