As we move in 2020, there are a number of topics that come up time and time again in terms of improving the general workforce and the overall working environment moving forward. One of these has got to be attracting, retaining and levelling the playing field for women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) markets. Whilst much has been done, with certain individuals and organizations paving the way in terms of improvements and evolution within this sector, there is still ample room for further growth. We spoke to Jessica Swann, Client Relationship Manager at SThree, about where exactly Women in STEM are positioned in 2020 and what the future looks like.
Attracting and retaining talented females in STEM requires consistent innovation:
Most STEM companies have certain methods or strategies in place at the moment in order to tap into the female talent pool in these markets. However, these are constantly having to evolve and change in line with current market trends and technological advancements. Nokia, for example, is a company that is known on a global scale for its commitment towards promoting and engaging with women in STEM. They have been quite vocal about their support and interest in this, so much so that Bloomberg went as far as to include Nokia in their 2019 Gender-Equality Index for their transparency and commitment to gender equality. In order to strengthen the pipeline of women leaders in technology, the company is running a number of programs. This includes running STEM workshops in France, Germany and the U.S for almost 1,500 girls between the ages of 11-15, internships for female students in China and also contributing to Plan International’s Digital Gender Divide Project in Africa. For such a global company, getting your name out there like this and creating links between your organization and STEM is imperative to attracting the relevant talent.
Retaining such talent takes ongoing effort. Aiming for this level of gender diversity is not sufficient without adequate inclusion. Manufacturing company 3M is a good example of a company that really makes inclusion a huge priority. The emphasis on Women in STEM certainly does not stop when an employee enters the organization. There are numerous support resources available to employees within 3M, such as a Women’s Leadership Forum which aims to strengthen female’s leadership skills and enhance collaboration and diversity across the genders. Not only this, but they have flexible working policies, mentoring programs and other inclusion initiatives in place aimed at helping women feel comfortable in the roles they’re in. Programs like these really boost retention and raise morale among females within the STEM markets. They help them feel appreciated and renews their confidence in their ability to grow and progress within the business they are working in.
There have been some key milestones that mark significant progression…
Without a doubt, a lot of progress has been made in this area, particularly in recent years. Here in Australia for example, there have been many successes in terms of championing this. For example, Women in STEMM Australia is a non-profit which was founded in 2014 and has gone from strength to strength since. They are mainly focused on creating opportunities and providing support in terms of career progression for women in STEM industries. It promotes networking which is a really important aspect for keeping the conversation flowing around Women in STEM.
Mentor Walks is another initiative that has worked well when applied to Women in STEM. The concept, which kicked off in Sydney, is now also popular in Melbourne and Brisbane. It essentially centers on connecting female leaders with aspiring professional women for an hour-long walk. It’s really beneficial in STEM as they get a face-to-face opportunity to get advice from female leaders in STEM on the challenges and struggles they may face and how they go about overcoming them.
Some other significant events which have occurred in recent years and I think are worth mentioning are as follows. In 2017, the annual Prime Minister’s Prize for Science was won by its first-ever female recipient and this has progressed to see five women break the prize drought in 2019, including mathematician Cheryl Praeger, who took the top gong in 2019 for her contribution to mathematics. This has no doubt been a major boost for professionals within the industry, who previously had not seen a female recipient of the prize before and will hopefully encourage more female participants as time goes on. It looks like more is being done by the government as well in terms of promoting and pushing Women in STEM forward. For example, in the 2018-2019 budget, the Liberal National Government committed themselves to develop a strategy focused on Women in STEM and the implementation of a Decadal Plan for Women in STEM. Advancing Women in STEM is actually a document that was created with the sole purpose being to ensure everybody here gets equal treatment and access to career opportunities within STEM, regardless of their gender. This comes as a response to increased public outcry to produce balanced talent pools throughout the education system and in the workforce.
Supporting a more inclusive workforce requires a double-pronged approach…
While plenty can be done by the Government and those within positions of authority to support and embrace an increased level of females within the STEM industries, it essentially must start from somewhere more close to home than that, and this means with individuals and within organizations themselves. HR and Talent Acquisitions should really have regular meetings and catch-ups on this topic, to see where exactly they stand on this at the minute, and what more needs to be done to progress in this area. There are so many organizations out there today which can help businesses and education facilities in their STEM journey. This includes Girls in Tech, which runs various boot camps, programs and mentorships focused particularly on women within the technology sector. Organizations like this are on the rise and are great for encouraging innovation and providing inspiration to individuals and businesses alike. Given that there has been heightened public debate about underrepresentation and the treatment of women in the rapidly growing technology industry, it makes sense to avail of services like these to keep up to date and informed about what can be done to consistently improve this area.
Tackling the issues related to Women in STEM definitely begins at an educational level. Given that there is a lack of females studying STEM subjects, it makes sense that there is, therefore, a lack of women in high-level STEM roles. Therefore support groups for women in STEM should be readily available at the university level at least. This without a doubt should be an area of focus for 2020. Moving into the workforce however, I think that the concept of providing male mentors as well as females for female STEM mentees could be an interesting one. That and an increase of HR initiatives aimed at reaching and assisting this target audience in particular. As we reach the end of this article I feel that if you are an employer reading this, you should simply ask yourself the following upon reading this piece. 1) Does your organization have any current commitments to promoting Women in STEM and 2) What more could be done? A good starting point could be to visit Unilever where there are some simple examples and resources of ways to promote gender diversity in the workforce, not just in STEM but across the board.
We hope you enjoyed the above article and found it beneficial. At SThree, STEM is the core of our business and so we are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in these markets to the best of our abilities. Please keep an eye on our LinkedIn for the next article in our Women in STEM series and to find out about our upcoming event.
If you would like to work for a workplace that is focused on gender diversity or are interested in the services we provide within the STEM markets, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch at the following contact details –