Women in physics in Ghana: Improvement on the horizon

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AIP Conference Proceedings


In Ghana, the number of women involved in physics has been rather small compared with that of men. We report a gratifying increase in the number of women studying physics in Ghana during the past 5 years. This is the positive result of various intervention strategies that have been put in place in Ghana during the past 15 years. It is estimated that the developing countries of Africa need at least 2000 scientists per 1 million in population for effective industrial development. If this critical mass of scientific personnel is to be assembled, with the relevant supporting technical personnel, no country can afford to leave 50% of the population—the half that consists of women—out of scientific, technological, and mathematics education. It is imperative that many more women study physics if the country is to move forward and have the critical mass of scientists needed for economic growth. One of the basic problems that have put women on the sidelines in the pursuit of scientific studies and careers is gender stereotyping. Gender stereotyping of school courses and careers finds expression in the expectation that certain courses like physics, mathematics, engineering, and other technical work are “boys courses” or “men’s jobs” and girls will study languages, typing, cooking, and sewing, which will lead to jobs in catering and junior-level office work. These societal expectations are projected in the school into what has been described as “the hidden curriculum.” On paper, all subjects are open to all students, but in practice there is often gender bias toward certain subjects. The result has been a categorization of careers into “men’s jobs” and “women’s jobs.” In fact, some well-meaning people have, in the past, advised that the study of science and mathematics could harm the delicate feminine frame