Report: Low enrolment in STEM courses costing women manufacturing jobs

Written By: Ronald Owili
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(L-R) KAM WIM Chair, Flora Mutahi and KAM CEO, Ms Phyllis Wakiaga during the KAM WIM report

A report by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers Indicates that women accounted for 17 percent of jobs in the manufacturing sector last year compared to men at 83 percent.

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This is despite the manufacturing sector contribution to gross GDP witnessing a 30 percent rise from Kshs 1.8 billion in 2014 to Kshs 2.6 billion in 2019.

According the Women in Manufacturing Report, female employment in the manufacturing sector increased only one percent compared to 2018 when women accounted for 16 percent of the labour force compared to men at 84 percent.

The report attributes the low women employment in the manufacturing sector to poor enrolment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses.

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The report further indicates that only 11 percent of women complete STEM higher education course compared to men at 21 percent.

“Success in manufacturing depends on having the necessary technical skills and expertise to carry out specific roles. With fewer young women enrolling in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, the pipeline for increased participation in the sector remains limited. Attrition of women from these courses is high and remains a challenge,” The report indicates.

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Women’s attainment of training in areas such as engineering, manufacturing, and construction is extremely low 2 percent compared to that of men 6 at percent.

Speaking during the launch of the report, Industrialization PS Dr Francis Owino reaffirmed government’s support to enhance participation of women in the sector.

“The Government of Kenya has ratified regional and global policy and legal frameworks that target the promotion of gender equality and diversity in the workforce. We have also institutionalized affirmative action funds such as Women Enterprise Fund, Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), Uwezo Fund, all aimed at creating a level playing field for women in the sector.” PS Owino said

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Women in leadership

However, according to the survey which involved 100 registered KAM members in 14 subsectors, women formed 50 percent of workforce in chemical and allied industries and 40 percent in agriculture/fresh produce, services and consultancy, paper and board.

The survey suggests that Plastics and rubber and leather and footware industries had 100 percent of the workforce being men.

“We need to equip, mentor, and build women who will start businesses in the sector as well as take up decision- making positions. Our aspiration as an Association is to see more women participate in the sector in senior leadership roles, as owners and founders, and for young girls to see themselves as future industrialists. KAM Chair Mucai Kunyiha added.

When it come to women leadership or ownership women led in pharmaceutical and medical equipment at 83 percent, services and consultancy at 80 percent, and chemical and allied at 75 percent.

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“Male- owned companies had slightly more women in senior management at 89% whereas female-owned companies stood at 85%. On the other hand, female-led local companies had more women in senior management at 88% compared to male-led local companies at 75%.  Companies that had been in operation for more than 40 years had a female workforce of 29%. This rose to 35% for companies that were in operation for 11-20 years and was even higher at 41% for the newest companies that are less than a year old. 93% of women-owned manufacturing businesses are MSMEs and operate in the informal sector,” Women in Manufacturing Programme Chair Flora Mutahi added.

Uncompetitive operating environment, access to capital have been cited as major barriers towards women participation in manufacturing.

KAM commissioned the International Centre of Research on Women (ICRW) to conduct the study, which targeted manufacturers across the country.

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