The academic, biomedical engineer, and quiz mistress for the National Science and Maths Quiz (NSMQ), Dr. Elsie Kaufmann has stated that negative comments from male audiences during the competition has played a role in hindering participants from the girls’ schools from winning the competition.
“All those negative messages is just a reflection of what happens in the wider society, unfortunately. And they bring all of this to the NSMQ environment,” she said.
Dr. Kaufmann told GhanaWeb in an exclusive interview in commemorating the International Day of Women in Maths and Science.
According to Dr. Kaufmann, she had to stop recording the programme on several occasions to stop some of the negative stereotypical comments from some of the male audience to the female students.
“I’ve had the occasion to stop recording just to chastise the members of the audience that are making negative comments when the young ladies are on stage, trying to win the competition,” she said.
The female students become self-conscious as a result of the negative rhetoric like ‘girls are meant for the kitchen’ and are not able to answer their questions as confidently as their male counterparts.
“A lot of the times, the young ladies are very self-conscious. They care about their image. So while the young men are giving me wrong answers with great confidence, these young ladies want to make sure that what they are saying is right because they don’t want to be made fun of. So they are fighting multiple battles on stage which is really unfair,” she added.
She also mentioned that the male gender has dominated the competition and this also has an effect on the girls.
“Unfortunately, if you look at our audiences, it’s typically highly male-oriented. Even look at the coaches that bring students to the competition, even from the girls’ school, some of them bring male teachers as coaches. So the young ladies are seriously under-represented even in that environment, and when it’s compounded with all these negative rhetoric and noises coming from the audience, it doesn’t help,” she said.
Dr. Kaufmann stressed that the girl students are very intelligent, even though they have not been able to win the competition.
“These girls are not losing the contest because of their technical incompetence. If it were that case, they would not be the ones winning the national and international awards and the WASSCE exams. It has to do also with the environment,” she asserted.
She, however, shared her hopes of the girls winning the competition someday as they are becoming more courageous.
“I’ve seen the girls getting bolder and stronger over the years, I don’t think it’s beyond them to win one of these days, but we need to be sensitive,” she concluded.