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"Support your children's passions when choosing University courses" - Prof. Elsie Effah Kaufmann to parents

Dean of the School of Engineering Sciences at the University of Ghana, Prof. Elsie Effah Kaufmann has made a compelling appeal to parents to support their children’s passions when choosing University courses.

Speaking at the National Girls-in-ICT Day held at the Cedi Conference Centre, University of Ghana, Accra, on Tuesday, Prof. Kaufmann emphasized the critical need for greater representation of women in STEM fields, particularly in physical, mathematical, and computational sciences.

"The young ladies who came forward have only been at this for a few weeks and can already create websites and develop technological solutions. This is incredibly exciting and shows the effectiveness of programs like this," Prof. Kaufmann stated.

She underscored the importance of such initiatives in addressing the under-representation of women in certain STEM fields, despite their significant presence in medical and biological sciences.

Highlighting the broader impact of diversity in problem-solving, Prof. Kaufmann said, "Research shows that diverse teams produce higher quality solutions. We need wide representation to solve problems effectively, and that includes having more women in STEM."

Prof. Kaufmann also addressed the challenges many young women face in pursuing their desired careers, often due to parental pressure.

"Parents look for secure choices for their children, but the reality is that traditional 'safe' careers are no longer guaranteed. What’s important is to encourage children to follow their passions, as this leads to excellence and fulfillment," she advised.

She encouraged parents and educators to shift their focus from traditional career paths to fostering problem-solving skills and passions.

"Instead of asking children what they want to be, ask them what problems they want to solve. This approach will better prepare them for the future and enable them to contribute meaningfully to society."

In her message to young people, Prof. Kaufmann inspired confidence and perseverance.

"There’s nothing you cannot do. Even if examples don’t exist today, you can be the pioneer. Every experience matters, and leadership is built through these experiences. Work hard, stay focused, and don’t let distractions deter you."

Prof. Kaufmann concluded with a hopeful vision for the future, "I look forward to a time when events like this are no longer necessary because we have achieved full participation. Until then, we must continue to support and encourage our young women."

Prof. Kaufmann's appeal is a call to action for parents, educators, and society at large to recognize and nurture the potential of young women in STEM, paving the way for a more inclusive and innovative future.

On her part, Yvette Adounvo Atekpe, the CEO of Dimension Data, shared her inspiring career journey with a captivated audience, highlighting her rise from humble beginnings to becoming a prominent leader in the ICT sector.

Her story was a testament to resilience, passion, and the transformative power of perseverance.

After graduating from the University of Ghana, Madam Yvette faced the harsh reality of the job market.

Despite her qualifications, she found herself accepting a position as a receptionist at CellTel, the second telecom company in Ghana.

Reflecting on this period, Madam Yvette recalled, "I thought about it, I'm like, wow, I have just completed university, and I've come to be a receptionist. Anyway, and my mom encouraged me, she said, listen, this is a very, very, very new thing. Try it out."

She added that, at that time, mobile telephony was in its infancy in Ghana, with cumbersome, handbag-sized phones and limited signal reception.

Yet, Madam Yvette seized the opportunity to learn everything she could about this nascent industry.

Madam Yvette's career continued to evolve as she joined Africa Online, where she worked with influential figures.

At Africa Online, she navigated the challenges of the dial-up internet era, a stark contrast to today's high-speed connections.

From there, she moved to Axelon, a South African-based VSAT company, which was later acquired by Dimension Data.

As the Managing Director of Dimension Data, she spearheaded the launch of IS Internet Solutions in Ghana, providing connectivity solutions to major financial institutions, multinationals, and government entities.

Recognizing the importance of mentorship and inclusivity, she initiated an internship program to nurture young women in ICT.

"It's important to bring up the women in the organization to take a real interest in ICT," she emphasized, noting the success of many who have passed through the program.

When Dimension Data was acquired by NCT, the third-largest telecom company in the world, she saw an opportunity.

Faced with NCT's decision to divest from West Africa and the Middle East, she boldly decided to bid for the company's assets.

Competing against industry giants, Yvette's determination and strategic vision secured her the successful acquisition, making her the owner of an ICT company that she once joined as a receptionist.

She attributed her success to the foresight of her headmistress at Holy Child, who encouraged her to pursue science.

She encouraged the young women in her audience to embrace the opportunities before them, saying, "My dears, today when you are all here, it's because the country has seen something you have not seen as yet. And believe you me, I am sure that in the next few years, we are going to have so many success stories from you young ladies here today."

Her journey, marked by continuous learning and unyielding resolve, serves as a powerful inspiration.

Yvette concluded her speech with an open invitation to young women seeking mentorship and internships, expressing her commitment to fostering the next generation of female leaders in ICT.

"Watch this space," she declared, "because this journey for you is just the beginning." Yvette Adounvo Atekpe's story is not just a personal triumph but a beacon of hope and possibility for all aspiring young women in STEM and ICT.

Juliana Jones Ametorwogo, a staff at telecommunications giant, Telecel, has become a passionate advocate for encouraging young girls to pursue careers in ICT and STEM fields.

Her journey from a curious student in Lapaz, a community in the Greater Accra Region to a professional in the telecommunications industry was both inspiring and instructive, highlighting the importance of diversity and creativity in technology.

Addressing a group of young girls interested in ICT, Juliana expressed her excitement about their enthusiasm.

"Seeing all you girls here right now, I mean, deciding on your own that ICT is the way, ICT is the future, is so encouraging. You are all convinced that this is the path you want to take, and that's fantastic."

Juliana emphasized the critical need for diversity in technology to create more innovative solutions.

"Technology is all about creating solutions," she said.

"Are you going to allow only men and boys to design solutions for us? No, we need more diversity in the industry. We want solutions tailored to our needs as women. Who knows our problems better than ourselves?"

She illustrated her point by mentioning how some websites and games fail to appeal to women because they lack the creative touches that female designers can bring.

"We love color, we love beautiful things. If you, the girls, design those websites, you can imagine how appealing they would be."

Juliana also highlighted the importance of addressing unmet needs in society through technology.

Reflecting on her own journey, Juliana recounted her early fascination with science and technology.

Growing up in Lapaz, she discovered her love for mathematics and science in primary school, often teaching her classmates when they struggled with the subjects.

"It came so easy to me," she said. "From that point, I knew science was the way."

Her path led her to Ola Senior High School, where she intentionally chose to study science, eventually becoming the assistant school prefect.

Her interest in telecommunications was sparked by her interactions with Ghana Telecom field engineers who visited her school.

"Watching them work was fascinating. I knew then that I wanted to be a telecom engineer."

Despite societal expectations to pursue medicine, Juliana followed her passion and enrolled in Telecom Engineering at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

She excelled in her studies, particularly in physics and mathematics, and graduated with flying colors.

Juliana's career journey continued to flourish as she joined Telecel, where she now uses her platform to inspire and mentor young women.

"I want to tell you a few reasons why we need more girls in ICT," she said.

"Diversity brings more creative solutions, and women are perfectly positioned to design solutions tailored to our own needs."

Juliana's story was a powerful example of how determination, passion, and a commitment to education can lead to success and positive change.

Her message to the young girls was for them to embrace ICT and STEM, because the future of technology needs their unique perspectives and creativity.

Other mentorship took turns to share their life stories and encouraged the young girls to embrace ICT for a better future.

Some students who spoke to revealed that the programme has exposed them to coding and how to create games.

They thanked the Communications and Digitalisation Minister for the initiative and assured that they will make good use of ICT.

The National Girls-in-ICT Day event saw several speakers echoing similar sentiments, stressing the need for continued support for young women in technology and engineering fields.

The National Girls-in-ICT Day is an initiative aimed at empowering and encouraging girls and young women to consider careers in information and communication technology (ICT).

The event celebrated the achievements of young women in ICT and encouraged further participation in these critical areas.

The event seeks to address gender imbalances in STEM fields by providing young women with opportunities to explore and develop their skills in technology and engineering.

Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith



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