STEAMHouse CEO Godiva Golding is working to address longstanding challenges in Jamaica’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) education system.
Golding, who has become known as one of the female faces of tech in Jamaica through her work in youth development, robotics, digital technology and education, says outdated curriculums and limited access to tech have been ongoing problems in the region.
In an interview with Our Today, Golding identified three ICT education challenges that have historically plagued Jamaica: outdated curriculums, resource gaps, and the gender pipeline problem.
When asked about progress on the outdated curriculums, Golding said that there has been steady improvement up to the regional level.
“Oftentimes when we teach IT, we’ve done it in a way that is at least five years outdated and behind what is present [in society]. It is to our detriment and that’s because of the rate curriculums are developed,” said Golding.
“As Caribbean citizens by way of the CXC, we now have courses in animation, entrepreneurship and advanced programming added to the curriculum and courses such as robotics and automation lead the way at places like HEART and tested at CAPE and the CSEC level. This is testament that we are trying actively to bridge that gap,” she declared.
Golding pointed out that although progress has been made over the past five years, many locations in rural Jamaica still suffer from a large resource gap that is barring many students from accessing a quality STEM education at the high school level.
She also noted that women face particular challenges in accessing STEM fields due to societal stereotypes.
“I certainly see a lot more women in data and data analytics and that’s very encouraging, especially when coming from a background where people tell you that ‘women don’t like math and only boys are good at math’, which of course is not true,” said Golding.
She continued: “Oftentimes, girls self eliminate from STEM fields. Tech is seen as this boring job that only nerds do and if you don’t self identify as that then it’s hard to push against that. Changing a culture like that isn’t going to be overnight but it is happening. Five to ten years ago we didn’t see enough role models and I see that landscape is changing now; we see more women in tech actively pursuing things like lighting design and sound engineering, unconventional areas that people typically think of as ‘guy fields’.”
Despite facing doubters and stereotypes throughout her journey, Golding remains committed to sharing with girls across Jamaica that being in ICT is an exciting and modern career full of possibilities.
“Changing a culture like that isn’t going to happen overnight. Five to ten years ago we didn’t see enough role models and I see that landscape is changing now; it’s not going to take one year, but in the next five years we’re going to see even more women in tech because right now we’re laying a foundation that lets them know that being a woman or girl in tech should not be inhibitive,” she explained.
Golding pointed out that having more women in ICT contributes to the betterment of society.
“Where we get lost in technology sometimes is in our inability to recognize the capabilities and possibilities. We can’t keep thinking within a box and remain myopic about creating solutions,” said Golding.
“I’m a firm believer that if you want to build technological solutions for everyone, you need to include women and their perspectives,” surmised Godiva Golding.