As we consider the future of the technology industry in the short and, especially longer, term, there is undoubtedly an appetite and acute awareness within the industry about the need to encourage more women into STEM. Women make up half of the overall workforce but just 28 percent of STEM positions, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.
However, this change needs to be supported and accelerated by ensuring that a career in STEM is appealing for women.
Businesses play a critical role here. Promoting diversity within the STEM ecosystem is beneficial to employees and employers. Gender parity uncovers the productive potential of half of the talent pool, and could add up to $28 trillion to annual GDP by 2025 according to research undertaken by McKinsey Global Institute. Incorporating women into the industry is vitally important in evolving as a productive workforce but also for recognizing and reforming the gender bias that is implicit within business.
Creating the drum beat for change
There is clearly more work to do in changing outdated perceptions and unconscious bias and this is where employers can make a real difference—by showcasing the opportunities available to women in STEM and ensuring access to the same opportunities for all.
As leaders in the technology industry, we have an obligation to promote STEM to young women and girls who make up the potential next generation of leaders in the field. According to a Microsoft survey, 63% of middle school girls who know women in STEM enjoyed STEM related subjects. In comparison, only 46% of middle school girls who don’t personally know women in STEM feel powerful doing STEM. Similarly, 73% of those girls who personally know women in STEM understand the relevancy of STEM, and 72% know how to pursue a STEM career. This is compared to 51% and 47% of those who don’t personally know women in STEM, respectively.
Through educational, cultural and business-orientated measures, diversifying gender within the industry is an objective that is becoming increasingly tangible. The first step in promoting the STEM industry to new female talent is revealing the hyper-growth within the industries they feel have high barriers to entry, whilst also addressing challenges such as flexibility. Employers have an obligation to immerse themselves in these initiatives, and where appropriate drive them to ensure that we are creating a STEM industry that is innovative, creative, progressive and diverse for future generations.
To help open these doors, businesses must offer work experience placements or internship programmes. Internship programmes are invaluable both for an organisation and students, especially those who are interested in STEM, but who are perhaps unsure about exactly what a career in this field entails. For the students, it gives them first-hand experience of the type of work involved with that industry, and for the organisation, it can be used as a recruitment process to identify future talent who could one day join the business once they have completed their studies.
For example, at Park Place we sponsor an annual Women in STEM externship aimed at female college students studying STEM related subjects, who want to gain experience in the industry. The program provides college-aged women the opportunity to meet mentors in STEM and receive training and hands-on experience. In previous years, the program awarded two students from Ireland an externship at Park Place’s Cleveland headquarters. This year, for this first time, we are hosting six virtual interns from around the world — two from Cleveland, in partnership with John Carroll University, two from Singapore, in partnership with the National University of Singapore, and two from Cork, in partnership with University College Cork.
By continually breaking down the barriers for women joining the industry and viewing the current stereotypes as entertaining obstacles rather than roadblocks, as a collective we can reinforce positive change upon the industry. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, 74% of middle school girls express an interest in engineering, science, and math, but only 0.4% choose computer science as a major when they get to college.
By surrounding yourself with inspirational mentors and persevering despite the challenges, we can help boost these numbers and make sure a career STEM is available to everyone.
Now more than ever, it’s time for our ideals and recruitment policies to diversify and evolve. The opportunity for women is limitless and I believe we all have a responsibility to help address this imbalance. Recent initiatives are unequivocally invoking positive change, specifically in awareness. It’s our responsibility to ensure continued action invigorates changing perception which, consequently, will work towards correcting the diversity imbalance.
- Call to Participate in Global Survey on Gender Equity in STEM
- SWE Urges Biden Administration to Champion STEM Education Efforts
- Inspirational Women in STEM History: Dame Stephanie Shirley
- Podcast: Louvere Walker-Hannon on Getting More Black Women Involved in STEM
- Learn How to Impact STEM-Related Policy at the National Level
- February SWEet Wisdom: Importance of More Women In STEM