Over the last two months we have been visiting many Universities throughout the UK to advice students on their careers in networks and security. As expected the audience was mostly male wherever we went. So, we started to wonder what is the reason that women choose different careers and what can be done to make careers in STEM more appealing to women?
As discussed in our previous blog, women have made valuable contributions to the digital age. So why is there such a big difference between men and women in STEM careers?
Women have historically been underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). One of the reasons that the women to men ratio is very low in these fields is that female students do not get encouraged as much as men to pursue careers in STEM. The lack of women in STEM could cause a shortage of qualified scientists and engineers for the future in the UK. A few other reasons why women are underrepresented are:
- Gender inequality. Girls who pursue a career in Computer Science at University level are outnumbered by males (82% vs. 17%). It’s one of the highest gender imbalanced course subjects. Gender inequality is a reason that drives girls away from this industry.
- From an early age the gender stereotype of boys being better at maths, science, technology and engineering can discourage girls from studying STEM subjects.
- Less women are studying STEM subjects, which means that companies have a gender biased talent pool to recruit from.
- Tech employers who aren’t supportive of their female staff and don’t offer flexibility in working can only further discourage females from joining up. Even if women have a degree, they often leave the STEM field early in their career, as there frequently is a lack of maternity leave and childcare after having children.
- As in many other industries, women are frequently paid less than their male counterparts and get fewer rewards for their work.
Getting more women into tech today can help break the cycle of a male dominated industry and fill the STEM talent demand.
The way to get women interested in STEM is to start young. Start exposing young girls to STEM fields and encourage those who are interested to follow their hearts and minds. Encourage young boys and girls equally to study those disciplines and improve education on these topics. In this way girls can embrace technology and science at a young age instead of avoiding the subjects and will be able to develop an interest in it.
Stereotypes are a big impact on what career people choose. It’s therefore very important to challenge negative stereotypes. This can be stereotypes about what career boys or girls should choose but also about jobs. Young children can feel that a career in i.e. tech can be quite dull and sitting behind a computer all day. But they have no idea of all the possibilities that there are in tech. Therefore, it is important to show children from a young age what opportunities there are and challenge stereotypes.
Powerful women in tech today can be role models for the women of tomorrow. Strengthening networking and mentoring opportunities are of high importance and it’s important to encourage participation in special programs. Nowadays there are many workshops that encourage young girls to maintain their interest in STEM fields. Both in-school as well as out-of-school programs are getting more popular and to continue this growth and popularity it’s important that the people already in STEM fields support these efforts. Women who are already in STEM can show younger girls the opportunities that are there and this can drive girls when facing challenges when completing a STEM major.
Furthermore, in today’s’ information society, the internet is a go-to source to find a great deal of information about the field, career opportunities and what it’s like to be a woman in a specific STEM profession. Gaining information from the internet might not be as enlightening as receiving information in person from a professional, but it will definitely be a good starting point from which you can grow. And as STEM careers become more popular to women, additional career opportunities will open to more young girls. With more women in the field, it will become more clear to young girls what they can offer this industry.
It’s time that the focus is on the next generation of tech talent and make sure that gender equality exists. This means that there will be more flexible working arrangements, more women in leadership roles and that girls and boys get encouraged at a young age to pursue what they are interested in.
At Hamilton Barnes Both our Co-Founders Nick Barker and George Barnes are STEM Ambassadors and are involved in a wide range of activities to help impact a young person’s learning and enjoyment of STEM, with a focus on technology.