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Careers Equality and Diversity Future of work

Are We Doing Enough For Women In STEM Roles?

There’s no denying the gender gap that exists in so many industries, women in STEM roles are sadly no exception to this. But research into this has raised some concerning questions and even more concerning answers. There are not enough women in STEM roles, that much is clear but is enough being done to change that?

With the Edinburgh Science Festival coming up, we at Find Your Flex thought this is a topic we want to discuss. Exploring why this is still an issue and the possible solutions to this and why change in this area is so important.

Is there a gender gap in STEM industries?

Naturally we don’t just want to state there is a gender gap without backing it up. But the short answer is yes; there is a significant gap when it comes to women in STEM roles. This is proven by the PwC’s Tech She Can Charter and their report on Women in Tech in the UK. In 2017, WISE conducted research that showed that only 23% of people in STEM occupations were female. This makes over three quarters of the workforce in these roles male. Whats worse is that a separate study in the US shows that only 5% of women were in STEM leadership roles.

Now it would not be fair to say there has been no progress. As the research of WISE revealed that the number of women in STEM roles had increased by 2% from the previous year. Is this progress? Yes… is it enough? No. If this increase per year holds steady it would still be over a decade before there is an equal number of men and women in STEM roles. That is also not taking the pandemic into consideration, this could have had an impact on that increase percentage one way or the other. Either way it is not good enough, the gap needs to be closed at a far quicker rate. So, where does the problem begin?

The Lack of Girls Studying STEM Subjects in School

There are a lot of employment issues that when traced back to their source can start in education. PwC’s research shows that this issue may be no different. They conducted a survey that of over 1000 school students; 83% of the males were studying STEM subjects, compared with only 64% females. Now 19% may not seem like much of a difference however, when you take into account the number of STEM subjects and the number of students, this is still a concerning gap.

A similar statistic in university students studying STEM subjects shows a 52% male versus 30% female difference. But when you break it down the results are more shocking. For example Engineering takes 13% of male STEM students but only 2% female, which says a lot. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why? During interviews, young women stated they didn’t want to study STEM subject as it does not factor into the career they want. Though what is worrying is the response when asked if at any point during their education (including careers advice) a role in technology was suggested. Only 16% of girls had technology careers suggested to them, whereas 33% of males were given these suggestions.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that during interviews many of the young women indicated that many STEM subjects and roles are male dominated which is why they did not wish to study them. And they are right, these statistics prove that. But they also sadly prove that schools are not doing enough to encourage otherwise. And this needs to change.

Early years education and STEM

As signatories of The Tech Talent Charter we are aware of such organisations such as Tech She Can. A charter in which signatories pledge to work with  schools across the UK to educate and inspire pupils and teachers about technology careers.

Let’s not forget the importance of early years education. These children are our future. A future that needs the brightest and most imaginative individuals to be able to flourish, regardless of gender or background. This is the point when children absorb information like sponges. The formative stage where children learn more quickly that at any other stage in life. It is at this point we need to inspire our children. Our young girls need role models and a complete removal from gender bias in STEM. Perhaps the focus should be on our teachers and equipping them with the tools needed to do this.

Women in STEM roles in the Media and Pop-Culture

In PwC’s study, only 22% of students could name a well-known female working in technology. The truth is when you think of famous people in STEM roles, the vast majority are male. There are of course many pioneering women in STEM roles throughout history. Women like Ada Lovelace or Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and many more. Yet despite the numerous women who have revolutionized the world through their work in STEM roles, their names don’t immediately spring to mind. We tend to think of the Steven Hawkings or Albert Einsteins, but why? It could be down to the fact the media over the years have recognized and celebrated the male figures over women. Perhaps the media should be doing more to promote women in STEM roles. Especially during the pandemic, both men and women dealing with this issue have given information and opinions via news channels and in print.

In terms of pop-culture, there are women portrayed in STEM roles in film and particularly television. One that comes to mind is The Big Bang Theory, a comedy that originally started with a cast in which all the scientists were male. Though this changed as the series progressed with female scientists being showcased and two becoming mainstay cast members. Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz with a Ph. D in microbiology and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler a neurobiologist, the latter of whom’s actress has a Ph. D in neuroscience in real life. The show and characters are to this day extremely popular. The two showcased how the females of the group were just as intelligent and successful as their male counterparts and had equally large personalities.

Though other hit television shows have also portrayed STEM female role models. Shows such as Body of Proof; featuring a female protagonist Dr. Megan Hunt; a former Neurosurgeon turned Medical Examiner who has a straight-talking, never-back-down attitude. Even featuring a female in a STEM leadership role as Dr. Kate Murphy is the Chief Medical Examiner. Though there are other shows that showcase females in STEM roles: Grays Anatomy, Casualty, Holby City, Doctor Who etc. So in terms of pop-culture there isn’t a lack of fictional females in STEM roles, so why is there still a lack of non-fictional females in these roles? Its high time life started imitating art on that score.

How to get More Women In STEM roles?

PwC believe that the technology sector must take steps to deal with some of these highlighted issues. However, this should be the responsibility of all STEM industries to get more women into STEM roles as a whole. First and foremost it is the responsibility of STEM organisations to get more involved in the education of young people. They need to do more to raise awareness and showcase the importance of these roles. Make them attractive to young women as well as men. Many students did indicate the reason they wouldn’t consider a role in technology is they don’t know enough about it. STEM organisations should also look inwards to ensure they are providing the women in their company with the same opportunities as the men. More women in senior STEM roles creates more role models and inspirations for future generations.

Schools also need to do better in encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers. The statistics above show there is not enough encouragement or access on either front. If girls voice concerns on entering male dominant industries, there needs to be encouragement to overcome this. The research showed roles that make a difference were appealing to young women. Therefore there should be encouragement from both schools and STEM organisations that pursuing these roles makes a difference. A shift in perception is the first and arguably most important step.

The media need to do better at portraying female STEM role models. Make a bigger splash about the life altering contributions females make in STEM fields. Its important that these women are at the forefront of STEM fields to give young women something to aspire to and show them that they are just a capable as any males in this area. Pop-culture is doing a good job at presenting women in these roles, however there is room for improvement. Perhaps television, film and books aimed at a much younger audience should feature more STEM characters. This very well could plant the seeds of girls pursuing STEM fields when they are older.

Hopefully when young girls are grown up enough to make a decision whether or not to pursue a STEM career, the world will be a different place. One where there are just as many female role models in this sector and no obstacles. Its up to society to drive these changes, we need do our best now to set the wheels in motion.

If you want to read more about inspirational women in this and other fields click here! Or more about The Tech Talent Charter then click here.

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Careers Equality and Diversity Flexible Working Lifestyle

Equal Pay Day 2020: Women Should Not Be Working For Free

What Is Equal Pay Day?

Did you know that Equal Pay Day falls on the 20th November this year? 

Equal Pay Day is recognised each year as the day in the year when women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men. How crazy is that?

The Fawcett Society uses the full-time mean average gender pay gap to work out the day each year, which in 2020 is 11.5%, down from 13.1% in 2019. That means that Equal Pay Day has moved 6 days later in the year, compared to 14th November in 2019. The mean gender pay gap for all employees, not just those working full-time, is 14.6% this year, down from 16.3% last year.

So while most of us spend the rest of the year essentially working for free, we thought we’d take a look at some absolute badass ladies who’ve taken 2020 and smashed it against a wall.

Kamala Harris

(Image credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Kamala Harris just wins 2020 in our opinion. She is the first woman – and the first woman of colour – to be elected Vice-President of America. Being the first to do something seems to come naturally to Harris. In 2017, she became the first South Asian-American senator in US history, and the second African-American woman elected to the senate. For countless women and girls, Harris’ achievements represent hope, validation and the shattering of a proverbial glass ceiling that has kept mostly white men perched at the top tiers of American government.

Sundas Khalid

(Image credit: Instagram @sundaskhalidd)

Sundas Khalid is a data science leader and a passionate advocate for diversity in the workplace. She leads search engine analytics at Google and participates in their IamRemarkable initiative, empowering underrepresented communities to celebrate their accomplishments. Outside of work, Sundas volunteers with organizations that promote diversity and inclusion, including Pakistani Women in Computing and North Seattle College, and provides career coaching to help people achieve their dream jobs. 

Lizzie Valedquez

(Image credit: Today.com/Wire Image)

Lizzie is an American motivational speaker, activist, author, and YouTuber. She was born with an extremely rare congenital disease called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome that, among other symptoms, prevents her from accumulating body fat and gaining weight. Her conditions resulted in bullying during her childhood. During her teenage years, she faced cyberbullying, which ultimately inspired her to take up motivational speaking. In addition to being a motivational speaker, Velasquez campaigns for awareness of online bullying, taking part in Kylie Jenner’s #IAmMoreThan project and supporting anti-bullying legislation across the United States.  

Munroe Bergdorf

(Image credit: The Guardian/Luke Nugent)

Model and transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf was featured in the 2020 100 Great Black Britons list and in September was featured on the cover of Teen Vogue. Bergdorf was hired as L’Oréal’s first-ever trans model in 2017 but was axed weeks later when the Daily Mail seized upon comments she had made as white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia and killed anti-fascism protester Heather Heyer. After L’Oreal sought to align itself with Black Lives Matter, the author and DJ lit into its “meaningless”, hypocritical show of solidarity and called out its “racist snakes”. Bergdorf told Vogue how her outcry prompted a phone call with the brand’s new president Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, who joined after she was fired, and the offer to be L’Oréal Paris’ diversity consultant.

Samira Ahmed

(Image credit: The Telegraph/Jeff Gilbert)

Taking home The Glass Ceiling Award this year. this award-winning journalist took the BBC to tribunal for being paid six times less than a male journalist hosting a similar show – and won the case in a landmark victory that could change the lives and salaries of so many in the future. Her move came after the BBC published the salaries of its highest earners in July 2017 under the terms of its new royal charter, which revealed that only one-third of the list of talent earning more than £150,000 were women, with all the top names being men.

Adwoa Dickson

Image Credit: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Women)

The Woman of The Year 2020 award was presented to the inspirational Adwoa Dickson by Lorraine Kelly, for her work with Amies Freedom Choir. The unique choir aims to develop the musical and cultural awareness of young women who have survived trafficking. It also helps them to explore songs and musical styles from each others’ cultures and languages.

Equal Pay For Everyone

In 2020 things really shouldn’t still be this bad. Equal pay should be a fundamental right and not something that women have to fight for.

Though there are some absolute trailblazers out there paving the way for the rest of us, we need to consider what we can all do to ensure that everyone is treated equally and paid fairly.

Article written by freelance marketer & copywriter Jessica Ross.