Improving Gender Parity in the Brighter Investment Student Financing Model
My name is Joy Lamptey, and I am the student success manager at Brighter Investment. Growing up, I was lucky to have a family that made me believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I wanted to be a surgeon, and later an architect. But someway somehow, someone somewhere suggested, “why not a nurse or an interior designer?”. They had no other motivation for their advice, other than the fact that it would be a perfect career path for a pretty intelligent girl like me. Inexperienced as I was at the time, I believed these lines. Every surgeon and architect I admired was male, and every woman I looked up to was nowhere near my ambitioned career paths. At that time, the core science and engineering fields were simply for men, and girls like me could only dream of entering those fields.
Two decades down the line and this paradigm is far from being transformed. According to a report by the UN and an article by Forbes, women represent the single largest economic force in the world and earn more college degrees than men, but they remain under-represented in high-end-mathematics intensive fields. Less than 20% of computer science and engineering degrees are held by women.
Statistics by the National Science Foundation reveals that there are currently more job openings in STEM than in any other field and that these jobs are among the highest paying jobs in the world. Men find themselves in a comfortable lead securing the jobs of the now and the future. Women need to begin to see careers in STEM as something they can handle. This would go a long way towards ensuring gender balance and would make for a more robust and diverse industry. The first step towards this goal, is getting young girls into schools and getting them to pursue STEM degrees at the university.
Brighter Investment offers an alternative financing option to boys and girls in developing countries that enables them earn a degree. By providing the required financing for tertiary education as well as a robust mentorship program, Brighter Investment increases the earning potential of its beneficiaries and in essence helps them lead better, happier lives while contributing to national development.
With its focus on supporting education programs that offer the best career prospects, and many of those being in the STEM space, Brighter Investment is no stranger to the problems with attaining gender parity. The company has supported over 220 students and less than 20% of these students are female. Although this is slightly better than the gender ratio of the general student body at the supported degrees, the company believes that more can be done. STEM deserves more women. To this end, Brighter Investment signed a collaboration with the NGO World University Services of Canada and the DKM Foundation to actively seek out innovative ways to improve gender parity in the BI model.
WHat we’ve already started doing at Brighter Investment, is to form strategic partnerships with female-focused groups to improve awareness of our financing options among young women in Ghana. A social media campaign will showcase successful women with STEM related degrees as role models to female students. With the same purpose, our own female BI students travel back to their communities and schools to speak about their degrees and ambitions to serve as a role model to the girls about to make their own decision about higher education, and tell them financing is available through Brighter Investment if needed.
To identify additional cost effective initiatives that Brighter Investment can deploy, in depth research is currently being carried out on the barriers to female STEM Education in Ghana. The results of the research are expected to inform the strategies adopted by Brighter Investment to ensure gender parity in its model.
Changing the current narrative all at once is impossible. However, by making a commitment to make a difference in the lives of the young girls we come into contact with everyday, we can make a large difference over time. We believe in the validity of the dreams of the girl that wants to be a surgeon or an architect and are actively working to see that nothing stops them from living their best lives. The future is Bright!