Women in STEM – Balance is better!
While 51% of the population of the UK is female, women currently only comprise 19% of the technology industry workforce and 15.1% of the undergraduate engineering student enrollment.
To tie in with International Women’s Day, Virtual Clarity asked employees what they think could be done to even the balance of the tech environment and encourage young women to consider a career in the field.
A man’s world?
Business analyst Sabina Guatoaia admits that both IT and Financial Services are still very male dominated industries. “As a woman, this has not always been easy,” she admitted. “At times, I do feel like I have to work twice as hard and speak twice as loud to prove that I’m not just someone’s assistant, which can be quite frustrating, but I feel that we are starting to see organic change in the attitudes towards women in technology."
Looking at these changing attitudes, Sabina suggested a focus on incentives that today’s agile workers are looking for, from monetary and status to increased flexibility and a better work/life balance: “This workplace transition along with the acknowledgment that women do bring specific qualities to a professional environment will hopefully have an impact on the number of women who will consider pursuing or returning to a career in STEM.
“I look forward to hearing more and more resounding female voices in technology.”
Educate girls about career options
According to a 2015 census, women held only 24% of STEM jobs in the US. Therefore, senior strategic account manager based in the US, Ashley Cvrkel, feels it’s incredibly important to continue to educate young girls and women about career opportunities in STEM fields: “although, the market has seen an increase in women in the overall workforce, the number of women in STEM related jobs continues to grow at a slower pace.”
A few years ago, Ashley was given the opportunity to participate in a STEM program at Pittsburgh Carnegie Science Center, open to girls from grade school to high school. The goal of the event was to give girls the opportunity to showcase STEM related projects and learn about companies in and around Pittsburgh who promote women in STEM related jobs.
“I was blown away by the innovation and dedication of these young girls,” said Ashley of the robots, computer programs and effective problem solving used by the girls to complete tasks. “Empowering girls at a young age will only make their future’s brighter and our workforce better. Providing young girls with the opportunity to develop focused interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math can lead to remarkable things. I wish STEM programs existed when I was in school; more programs like these need to be established around the world.”
Engagement manager and delivery lead Kelly Melnick attributes the growing number of women in STEM professions to women’s renewed sense of confidence stemming from the momentum of women-in-tech communities. “The momentum created a cyclical affect where women are motivated to rise to success and in turn, the victories of these women encourage more women to pursue STEM,” she added.
Setting an example for future generations
“I do not have to pretend to be something I am not,” added PMO and team lead Pam Cooke. “My gender never crossed my mind (apart from a few #MeToo incidents with software sales guys in the late 80s).
“If people tell you that you can be successful, that is not enough – you have to have self-belief. Believe your results – they are not a fluke, you delivered them. I am trying to set an example to my 16-year-old daughter who is 100% STEM (Math & Physics); it’s her generation that will be the one to start to really get the imbalance addressed and make the change.”
How Virtual Clarity is making a difference…
“On International Women's day, we celebrate the contribution women make, including, but not limited to, giving birth to everyone who has ever lived, and inventing computer programming, and we reflect on how very much more work we all have to do until everyone has the opportunity to contribute equally,” commented chief technology officer Rens Troost. “At Virtual Clarity, we take this very seriously: not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because attracting and retaining the best, brightest and most motivated people, regardless of background, gender, or ethnicity, is what makes our business great.”
..and men must also play a role
Consultant and father David Pattie discussed how the perception that women are likely to go on maternity leave, or ask for part-time working as a result, has a big effect on hiring.
“The way to break this cycle is to ensure that we normalize men’s roles in these activities,” he theorized. “When the responsibility for caring for the sick, elderly and childcare falls equally on men as it does women, this should be the tipping point for equality in the workforce, so thank you Virtual Clarity for your family friendly policies and ultimately the flexibility you have given me which has indirectly enabled my wife to succeed and for our family life to be balanced.”
A more effective industry
“I pray for an IT world where women are better represented outside the usual spheres of Sales, Marketing and Business Support Services,” concluded managing director Steve Peskin, “it would be a more effective industry for it.”
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