Accelerating Change: Encouraging Women into STEM Roles

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021

Today, on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, only 30% of researchers worldwide are women. Although women are more likely to receive an undergraduate degree than their male counterparts, they earn degrees in STEM at half the rate. For some reason, in 2021, we still haven’t cracked properly enabling girls and women into pursuing science education and roles.

Today, we are also in a technological revolution. If tech was leading change before the pandemic, COVID has only accelerated the inevitable. Digitisation has become essential to economic activity (when was your last Zoom meeting?), so much so that Satya Nadella – CEO of Microsoft – said “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”  AI is being used to to administrer contactless delivery, cleaning and medication. And data is all we hear about in relation to the spread and predictions about the virus. Science seems to be our way out of this mess – with vaccines developed, tested and rolled out at unthinkable speeds.

If science and tech are leading these monumental shifts to global health, economics and society – it makes us wonder, who are the people behind these decisions? Is there a distinct lack of women shaping AI, building data models, and working on vaccines?

We believe that involving women – and that’s women from lower socio-economic backgrounds, migrant women, trans women and Women of Colour – in these decisions is fundamental and non-negotiable. 

5 Key Actions to Improve Women’s Access into STEM Roles

  1. Using Data to track change

At Gapsquare, we’re all about data. We recommend that you collect information about the makeup of your workforce, for example: the percentage of women in STEM roles at each level of the organisation, the percentage of women at board and C-Suite levels, and the percentage of women being hired or accepted onto graduate programmes. These figures will give you a good starting point from which to set realistic targets and continually track your progress and change.

2. Fair and inclusive hiring practices

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is ensuring that women feel encouraged to apply for roles, and that hiring processes are fair and bias-free. There are lots of opportunities to improve hiring practices, like using a gender bias decoder for your job adverts, ensuring that interview panels are representative of the workforce, and waving goodbye to the CV – which often serves as a tool for reaffirming bias. Check out our partners Applied, for more tips on fair and inclusive hiring. 

3. Graduate programmes 

If you offer graduate programmes for STEM students, do the groundwork to ensure your pipeline is diverse. Think about which schools or universities you target, and their demographics. Sponsorship of female only and diverse societies, like Women in STEM or Girls in Tech, can also help with a more mixed applicant pool, as well as a diverse network of ambassadors and student headhunters to consider who applies and who makes it onto the schemes.

4. Ambassadors & Role Models

When a ‘draw a scientist study’ was conducted in an American elementary school in 2018, just 24% of the students drew a female scientist. If seeing is believing, and we don’t see – then how can we progress women into these roles? Encouraging women into STEM is about allowing them to feel visible and represented, particularly in inspirational figures, decision makers and senior level roles. So think about the make-up of your senior level positions, and how visible female role models are within your organisation.

5. Genuine Inclusion 

Now this one is a little harder to pin down. At Gapsquare, we hear a lot about the difference between diversity and inclusion – as diversity advocate Vernā Myers puts it, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Building a STEM workplace culture which genuinely enables women to feel included takes will and time. It’s about all the above, and more. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but taking a step today and pledging to encourage women into STEM roles, to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, and to make conscientious decisions at work is a brilliant start.

Interested in finding out other ways to nurture a diverse and inclusive workforce?