Today, February 11, 2023, is recognized as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day aimed at promoting full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, as well as recognizing the crucial role that they play in science and technology.
The theme for this day changes annually, but the overarching objective remains constant: to commemorate the accomplishments of women and girls in science and to raise awareness about the need for gender equality in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The theme for this year is “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us.”
Some members of the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies squad have achieved the remarkable feat of obtaining academic degrees within the STEM discipline. One such player is midfielder Thalea Smidt, who serves as a shining example of what can be accomplished through dedication and perseverance.
With a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Biotechnology, a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honors in Plant Science, and a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Digital Innovation already under her belt, the three-time Hollywoodbets Super League champion is now pursuing a Diploma in Coding & Technology through Upskillist, an education platform that recently partnered with Mamelodi Sundowns.
According to Thalea, pursuing a demanding career in sports while balancing it with academic studies requires a significant amount of effort, discipline, and time management skills.
“Thanks to the advancements in technology and the availability of online learning options, things have become easier than in previous years. However, before this, I had to learn the art of prioritizing my plans as I was a student before becoming a footballer. Playing football often served as a much-needed escape from the rigors of my academic studies and helped me recharge and refocus on my education with great effect,” Smidt stated.
Despite numerous innovative breakthroughs, women and girls continue to be underrepresented in STEM careers and face numerous challenges and barriers in accessing education and job opportunities in these fields. The Strandfontein-born midfielder believes that much work needs to be done to ensure a more inclusive and equitable world where women and girls have equal opportunities to advance.
“Governments around the world must be prepared to invest in education and training programs that support women and girls in pursuing careers in STEM fields. This can include offering scholarships and grants, providing mentorship and networking opportunities and supporting the development of programs that promote diversity and inclusivity in STEM education. Such efforts can help to increase the representation of females in STEM fields, which have traditionally been male-dominated for a long time,” the Sundowns midfielder stated.
Thalea’s current interest in coding and technology is significant in today’s world, as it equips individuals with valuable and in-demand skill sets, expands the range of career opportunities available to them, and fosters creativity and innovation.
On what she could create to make the world a better place, Thalea says, “It would be an invention that would eradicate poverty and crime and deliver more jobs for people across the world. Currently, I am involved in a technology-focused agricultural start-up company aimed at deploying innovative technologies across small-scale farms across the country. These innovative technologies have the potential to revolutionize the agriculture industry, increasing efficiency, productivity and profitability, while also reducing waste and improving the sustainability of agricultural practices.”
Few players choose to study during their playing careers due to the demands that both roles require. So far, Thalea Smidt has displayed the ability to balance multiple commitments and achieve success in several areas.
To all the women and girls in science, we wish you well in your plans today and in the future.