The power to change the women in STEM debate

Samantha Kingston is a 25-year-old who, up until two years ago, had no interest in video games. Today she runs her own VR business and describes herself as a ‘tech evangelist’. The catalyst for her career transformation? Simply taking a chance at a role in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Her reflections on succeeding in such a male-dominated industry are that she simply wants to work with ‘people who are good at what they do’.

This got me thinking what other successful women working in STEM make of the debate surrounding a more gender neutral workforce.

Becky Plummer, a senior software engineer for Bloomberg, was interviewed by the BBC, where she made a great point that there is in fact no shortage of innovations pioneered by females throughout history. From gas-powered central heating to the handheld syringe, and even the foundations for WiFi, there have been many inventions developed by women which we use in the modern world every day.

Sophie Vandebroek, CTO at Xerox, also had some interesting insights, commenting, “It’s not a question of men or women dominating the technology industry. What makes a difference is creating an organisation that is ‘inclusive’ for all… where all can bring their whole-self to work and their intellect and passion are appreciated and channelled effectively.”

If Sophie is correct and we’re beyond the issue of men versus women in STEM, what must we do to ensure more women are attracted to careers in the sector? Many organisations have launched awareness campaigns to target both parents and young women to think about STEM subjects as an exciting and relevant career choice, the aim being to change the way parents and schools encourage both girls and boys to harness their potential for a career in the sector.

More needs to be done by businesses to actively address gender pay gaps and attract female talent and in recent years this has been a priority for many businesses. Prominent organisations like Facebook have revealed 17 per cent of its technology staff and 33 per cent of its overall workforce are women. Twitter also made clear a goal for 2016 was to ensure 16 per cent of its technology staff and 35 per cent of its overall staff were female.

With education, career opportunities and pay all growing in STEM where do we go from here?

Collectively we all hold the power to change the issue and more visible female role models have an important part to play. Greater exposure to high achievers such as Martha Lane Fox or Sheryl Sandberg are as important as stories like Samantha’s. People need to make more of the potential of jobs in this space which includes travel, the possibility to earn well and progress swiftly, not to mention decent job security.

The best thing about working in technology from my perspective is the variety and opportunity to make a lasting difference for clients. Whether it’s helping devise a campaign to help businesses avert critical cyber-threats, or providing crucial trade show support in a foreign country, there is never a dull moment and we can be part of helping to shape an increasingly tech-shaped world.