Jacqueline de Rojas
There are now one million women working in the UK STEM sector. The good news is that the work we are doing to increase diversity in the sectors has been successful. The better news is that we have a greater chance to inspire even more women to enter and thrive in the industry.
We need more women and more diverse thinking in STEM roles to make scientific inventions innovative, useful and, more importantly, safe.
If technology is to benefit society, the teams creating it must reflect the society it seeks to serve.
It is no surprise that the first smart watches did not have female health tracking features – it simply did not occur to the all-male design team how useful such a function could be to approximately half of the population. The world has primarily been designed by men for men.
The industry is changing for the better
Tech companies recognise the positive impact of a diverse workforce and STEM sectors are flourishing. It is now clear that a skilled and diverse workforce is required in order to sustain it.
In recent years, workplace attitudes and (mis)conceptions about gender have been reshaped and there has been a push for positive progress.
As a consequence, there are more women and diverse people being employed with engineering and technology qualifications.
But entrenched biases and gender stereotypes can drive some away from pursuing a career in STEM. Working together to shift the balance and look at every stage of the pipeline is now critical – as is the imperative to attract girls into tech.
We must strive to retain them and support the progression of women and diverse representatives throughout their tech careers – while not forgetting to bring men into that conversation too.
With greater awareness and the rise of organisations such as The Tech Talent Charter, WISE, and Tech She Can, working towards better access and promotion of STEM to girls and women, we can change this.
Our opportunity as a nation is for companies to increase their commitment to diversity. A continued focus on making women aware of the opportunities available to them and creating an environment where women and diverse groups feel encouraged to pursue careers in STEM is much needed.
By ensuring that women in senior positions are supported in their roles, and by creating diverse succession plans, we can make this a sustainable pipeline of talent that promotes inclusion and builds a strong digital future.
STEM needs everyone
The more influential the role of technology becomes in our lives, the more we need to ensure it works for all of us. Otherwise, machine learning will perpetuate the same biases and discriminatory attitudes that are present today.
Tech now has the capacity to learn, adapt and make decisions at lightning speed and the consequences could be catastrophic.
Without the inclusion of women and other diverse voices when these decisions are made, STEM innovations, progressions and discoveries will be limited.
Those who invent the future, shape the future. Those who ignore diversity as a way to create competitive advantage will be at a disadvantage.
A career in STEM is exciting because it can be anything you want it to be, from AI or health tech, to environmental science or cyber security.
In difficult times, we witness the heavy reliance on our scientists, technologists and engineers to come up with solutions, fast, in order to support society. We cannot do this successfully without diversity across the board.