Jacqueline de Rojas CBE
Photo credit: Gareth Catermole – GettyImages
Those who invent the future, shape the future. But who exactly is creating this future? Women remain dramatically underrepresented across all STEM studies and careers, making up only 22% of the core STEM workforce. So, how do we get women more involved in shaping our future?
The problem begins well before a woman begins working life. Studies have shown 65% of the UK’s mixed secondary schools have no girls studying Computing at A Level and many have no girls studying ANY STEM subjects at sixth form at all.
Much of this lies firmly at the door of gender bias – with teachers also being affected. A recent Centrica survey on teacher and pupil STEM perception found nearly a third of male and 16% of female teachers believe STEM careers are more suited to boys than girls.
Leading by example
Female role models can change this. I believe the biggest driver of more woman entering STEM is having female role models to aspire to. Examples of women in our sector sharing their stories is a way to draw women’s interest in it – a way of inspiring and encouraging women to consider STEM options at all levels.
Developing a dialogue
Role models matter when it comes to providing mentorship and discussing shared experiences to promote STEM in underrepresented groups. Diverse role models create a dialogue allowing other colleagues to understand others’ experiences in the workplace and the challenges they face. Having a positive female role model can be an incredible opportunity for inspiration and confidence, often making it easier to pursue a new career path.
Female students will be more likely to join STEM education and professions if they can see people like them in these roles. In my role as techUK’s president, I have been able to use this platform to shine a light on this issue and the importance of diversity.
Everyone working in tech – man or woman – is a role model whether they choose to be or not. The real question is whether you choose to be a bystander or a participant. Getting involved means that it is not just up to women to make a difference – it is up to all of us.