STEM Day, which occurs annually on 8th November, aspires to encourage more of our youth into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors. It serves as a time for the industry to reflect on why there is such a large gender gap in those studying and working in STEM, and what can be done to encourage and retain women in STEM.
We spoke to 16 female experts from prominent tech companies, to hear their opinions on we can close the STEM gender gap. Together, they cover the need to diversify the STEM space to improve issues, such as women’s health and recruitment strategies, while focusing on three main areas of improvement: business development, education and self-assurance.
Businesses are responsible for change
“It’s time for us to reimagine the future women deserve.” Siobhan Ryan, Sales Director Ireland and Scotland, UiPath remarks. “Businesses need to ensure women are inspired and able to contribute, participate and enjoy their roles.”
Liz Parnell, COO, EMEA, Rackspace Technology adds: “There is no excuse in 2022 not to have balanced, diversified, and inclusive teams. Teach unconscious bias as part of your company onboarding; and walk the talk every day with your policies, behaviours and level of transparency.”
“Businesses need to make a conscious effort to recruit employees from a diverse range of backgrounds.” Clare Loveridge, VP and General Manager EMEA, Arctic Wolf states. “This will allow businesses to attract more talent and develop more creative ways of thinking, contributing to the development of highly innovative solutions to the complex challenges facing leaders today.”
Laura Malins, VP of Product, Matillion remarks on a reason why gender diversity in the STEM workforce is low: “Evidence suggests that men are likely to apply for a role even if they meet just 60% of the criteria, whereas women tend to only apply for jobs if they are a perfect fit. This tells me that the potential of women in STEM is still yet to be fully realised.”
“Business leaders need to understand this starts with them,” argues Pam Maynard, CEO, Avanade. “They also must realise just how influential their organisations can be in driving true change. The key to building trust and responsibly tackling diversity is empathetic and purposeful leadership.”
Katherine Church, Tech+ Director, Grayce gives an insight into health tech, advocating for increased funding for women-led tech: “Despite the sector having strong female leaders in the NHS, with the national CIO and CTO being women, we continue to overlook providing the right funding and support for women pursuing STEM careers in health at every level. We need to increase the levels of VC and PE funding for Femtech and female founders so that women’s health issues and careers are properly addressed.”
Improving educational opportunities
“A key way to improve the gender balance is to overly promote female participation. This starts at the grassroots level.” Renske Galema, Area VP, North EMEA at CyberArk opines. “Girls should be told at the beginning of their education that their brains are wired the same as boys, and thus they have the same variety of career options open to them.”
Estella Reed, Head of People, Distributed argues that the sector should be encouraging those non-STEM backgrounds into tech too: “To increase diversity in the tech workforce, alongside meeting the increasing demand for talent, businesses cannot afford to limit their talent pool to only applicants that have studied a STEM degree. Many of the best software engineers working in the industry, for example, come from arts and humanities backgrounds.”
Jamie Lyon, Vice President of Strategy and Development, Lucid Software agrees: “Diversity drives innovation and providing women with access and encouragement to learn and apply these skills is absolutely critical in ensuring there is increased female representation within the STEM sector."
Women need to be able to access the same educational opportunities as their male peers to succeed. “Recent research shows that men are over a third more likely to receive digital upskilling than their female counterparts,” Mairead O'Connor, Exec for Cloud Engineering,
AND Digital observed.
“STEM Day is a reminder that we must ensure girls are taught relevant data and digital skills at an early age to prepare them for the increasingly data-centric world we now live in,” Poornima Ramaswamy, Chief Transformation Officer, Qlik agrees. “Our research
found that 81% of executives believe it will become as vital in the future as the ability to use a computer is today.”
Self-assurance is key to success
“Women need to have the confidence to join STEM careers. Part of this confidence comes from understanding that working in STEM isn’t just something women should do because diversity targets need to be hit.” Sue-Ellen Wright, Managing Director of Aerospace Defence and Security, Sopra Steria, says. “They need to understand these opportunities can provide them with incredibly fulfilling careers.”
EJ Cay, VP UKI, Genesys offers her own experiences: “I pursued a career in technology as I was inspired by the speed of innovation and its potential to completely transform the way a business operates. Take, for example, the Metaverse, which is changing how we do business, communicate and interact with one another. We need women to be at the forefront of innovations such as this and inspire the next generation to feel this sense of excitement in the way I was.”
Caroline Vignollet, SVP of Research & Development, OneSpan encourages women to embrace their identity as a woman in the workplace: “While I always present myself as a professional in the workplace, and not a woman, I do believe bringing a feminine approach to a solution, strategy, team building and thinking helps bring a different perspective to the given environment. We need to celebrate differences and ensure we are all learning from each other to further innovation.”
Pantea Razzaghi, Head of Design, Automata encourages women to not bow down to pressure: “My advice for young women in STEM would be to not dwell on mistakes for too long. By experimenting and learning from your mistakes, you’re strengthening your chances of success in your next endeavour."
Najla Aissaoui, Talent Acquisition & HR manager, Venari Security gives her advice to graduates: “As someone who specialises in recruiting cyber security talent, the best candidates are usually up to date with the latest industry developments, follow key industry stakeholders and use networking to their advantage.”