Igniting a path for women to thrive in STEM careers

08 Mar 2023

How organisations can play a role in ensuring that future generations are ready to take their place in an ever-evolving world

In countless industries and countries across the world, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist ten or even five years ago, and the pace of change that underpins this is only set to accelerate. This stark fact was highlighted in a 2016 World Economic Forum report. For many youth in South Africa, the pace of change can be daunting, and persevering amid tough social and economic times has proven to be a great challenge. A key question is what can organisations do to ensure that future generations are ready to assume their roles in a rapidly evolving world? 

In PwC’s newly released publication, Igniting a path for women to thrive in STEM careers, we outline four crucial steps that organisations can take to support youth on this journey: 

  • A solid grounding in STEM skills

It is not certain what jobs young people will do when they grow up; however, there is a big likelihood that most new careers will be based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Marthle du Plessis, PwC Africa Workforce of the Future Platform Lead, says: “The role of technology in our daily lives is growing, but for now, technology needs humans to build it, program it, understand it, and repair it. Therefore, inspiring women to pursue a career in tech should start as early as the classroom. As they are provided the confidence to study STEM subjects and carry their studies through to matric and university, more female students are viewing tech as a natural career path after graduating with STEM degrees.”

  • Bridging the gender gap

In South Africa, not more than 13% of women choose to study in STEM disciplines, and globally, not more than 30%. Four ways that we can begin to close the gap are outlined in the publication. They include educating women about STEM careers, giving women access to role models who are already thriving in STEM disciplines, assisting women to reach their full potential, and increasing access to technology careers.

  • Closing the skills gap

The way we work has changed. The rise of automation and new technologies has increased productivity, but it has also created a major societal problem: the stark mismatch of skilled people for available jobs at the heart of our economy. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, the skills required to succeed in the workforce are also changing. 

The publication outlines some critical skills that are likely to be in high demand in the near future. They include artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analysis, design thinking, leadership and organisation skills.

  • Call to action

Christine Muhigana, UNICEF South Africa Representative, says: “Giving girls and women equal opportunities to pursue and thrive in STEM subjects and careers can ultimately help to narrow the gender pay gap, enhance women’s economic security, and ensure a diverse and talented STEM workforce. That’s why we need to deliberately leverage every opportunity to identify, incentivise and support girls in STEM, especially those who are from the most marginalised communities.”

She adds that UNICEF South Africa’s partnership with PwC and TechnoGirl Trust unlocks the full potential of girls in STEM. “The talent that is identified and nurtured through this joint venture is proof of a brighter future, driven by the skills, energy, and creativity of today’s young generation,” she says.

This is echoed by Staff Sithole, TechnoGirl Trust CEO, who says: “Our successful private-public partnership with PwC and UNICEF has enabled us to reinforce the vital role that many women hold in society and increase the number of those who can become empowered to make a significant contribution.”

We believe that by taking these actions, we can create a more supportive and inclusive environment for women in STEM, which is critical for addressing the gender gap and building a more diverse and innovative workforce.

Shirley Machaba, PwC South Africa CEO, says: “Today’s world is not simple — we need to inspire, lead, motivate, encourage innovation, and bring in fresh and diverse perspectives to move beyond the tried and tested. At PwC we believe that we have a responsibility to the growth and development of our continent, as articulated in our global purpose of building trust in society and solving important problems.”

PwC in partnership with UNICEF and Generation Unlimited, are proud to contribute to growth initiatives such as TechnoGirl, and to honour our values — which are to act with integrity, make a difference, care, work together and reimagine the possible. 


Contact us

 Rianté Padayachee

Rianté Padayachee

Media and Communications Specialist, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 5727

Verena Koobair

Verena Koobair

Integrated Content Lead, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 4873

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