Today, Friday the 11th of February, is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Female representation is still staggeringly low in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) roles. Now is the time to instigate long-term and sustainable change at all levels and in all STEM fields, but how do we do that?
How low? Just 24% as of 2020 according to WISE’s 2021 Updated Workforce Statistics. It’s a statistic that puts the recent announcement of over 1 million women working in STEM in the UK into perspective. Sarah Friswell, CEO at Red Ant, a leading retail tech solutions provider, thinks that business has a larger role to play.
“This International Day of Women and Girls in Science, our industry must create more initiatives to show girls and women how fun and rewarding a career in STEM can be.”
What Tech Organisations Should Be Doing
While non-profits and global organisations have a long history of supporting women and girls in education and employment initiatives, not enough leading organisations have lent their voices to the movement.
“Technology organisations – it matters that we enable access and support. This means more engagement with girls from secondary age to provide insight and exposure to the opportunities a STEM career can offer and offering flexible working solutions to design roles around lifestyles,” said Sarah.
Mentors, Stand Up
While the number for women in STEM stands at 24%, at management level, that drops to 15%. As such, Sarah also emphasised the importance of mentorship in traditionally male dominated industries.
“Role models and mentors – be ready to give support to those starting out – let’s keep the conversation going. We need to see girls and women in all STEM roles – from sales and marketing, to operations, cybersecurity and software development, and client management – there’s so much more to tech than coding.”
Our industry is realising the vast wealth of talent that women can offer, for organisations and society. Let’s turn talk into action and make our problem-solving diverse, make discriminatory hiring outdated and offer more young women access to rewarding careers in STEM.
CEO, Red Ant
Women & Girls in STEM Must Be Persistent
Lastly, Sarah spoke directly to the girls and women with an interest in STEM. Her advice? Keep going.
“I’d like to give some advice to girls and women who are fascinated with STEM… be persistent. Be prepared to take risks and push outside your comfort zone. Apply, try volunteering and internships to get an idea of different roles, and volunteering for projects to push your skills. Most of all, take advice from the many women in the industry, as there’s a huge network there to be accessed, on LinkedIn and other social media. The skills you might be missing are nothing compared with the wealth of talent you already have. Don’t be afraid to try new things until you find your niche.”
“Our industry is realising the vast wealth of talent that women can offer, for organisations and society. Let’s turn talk into action and make our problem-solving diverse, make discriminatory hiring outdated and offer more young women access to rewarding careers in STEM.”
AstraZeneca: Leading by Example
AstraZeneca are another company leading by example. Their collaboration with Plan International and their #GirlsBelongHere initiative is a rallying cry directly from a global STEM leader, with Katarina Ageborg, Executive Vice-President, Sustainability and Chief Compliance Officer; President AstraZeneca AB, Sweden, saying that “We are committed to breaking down barriers and empowering the girls of today to be the leaders of tomorrow… and committed to advancing gender equality around the world.”
Women & Girls Deserve Equality & Accountability
If the industry is to move beyond its gender bias, unconscious or not, female representation in core STEM roles must be addressed. To gain renewed traction and to separate yourself from the competition, businesses could do far worse than establishing a recurring International Day of Girls and Women in Science initiative. Being progressive doesn’t end in the boardroom, taking the next step in the fight for equal funding and opportunities for girls and women in STEM is more than just the obvious thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.