It’s so important to recognise and promote the equal contribution of women and girls in the sciences. In addition to encouraging greater participation of women and girls across these sectors, it is equally important to aid their career development. Business leaders across the country should feel a responsibility to be involved.
One of my core passions is to help more girls recognise the great career opportunities that science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers offer. There are so many different roles available yet tech companies still struggle to recruit the female talent they need.
Women make up just 12.8 per cent of the UK STEM workforce. The number of women attaining professional qualifications in science, maths or technology has increased from eight to 24 per cent.
This is a substantial increase but I believe there’s something stopping this figures translating into more women in technology jobs – the gender gap has widened in the past two years.
If we don’t encourage girls to get involved in the industry we won’t have the skills and infrastructure we need for the future. It is my responsibility as a business owner to help schools do more to set out the variety of careers on offer and to attract more women.
But how do we engage more women and promote the great opportunities across careers in science?
The talented women within my organisation put the main problem down to the fact they’re just not aware of the jobs on offer – they previously didn’t even consider a career in science because they weren’t encouraged to do so.
I believe there are a few key things we need to do to open up a more realistic picture of the job opportunities on offer:
- Speak to girls early on in their education to change their perceptions and engage withyoung women in schools before they decide on a career – this will likely unearth a new selection of talent that would otherwise be wasted;
- Arrange mentoring sessions;
- Offer one to one advice;
- Be a role model to young women
All of these things I strive to do in my business and beyond, and I’m proud of the talented software specialists, male and female, that make up our team.
Rachel Thayanithy an analyst programmer at Novacroft said: “When I was at school I was aware that things were moving very fast in the technology industry and I really wanted to be part of that. I liked the fact that it wasn’t really something girls did. I liked the idea of being different. My daughters are inspired by what I do, because they see that I enjoy it so much.”
Of course, commitment to achieving gender equality for women in science careers takes more than just a conversation – it requires action.
The United Nations recently adopted a resolution declaring an annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science for the Member States involved (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and the International Telecommunication Union Inequality)
Positive action is in their best interests because inequality hinders their ability unlock the contribution women in science can make to society, both in the UK and internationally.
To address a wider issue of gender inequality, bringing women into science is one of the best ways to ensure they are valued as much as men, such is the importance that the modern professional world places on the sciences, technology and innovation and the key they hold to our growing economy.
Shampa Kumar, a development team leader at Novacroft, said: “I was the only girl in my class at school that took computer studies. I’m glad I did.”
It’s important to recognise the great achievements of women in science and technology, as well as to galvanise the business community.
This will do a lot to ensure women’s participation in the scientific profession is no longer an exception but becomes the rule, while giving them adequate support to ensure our science and technology industry can thrive and establish the UK as the world’s tech hotspot.
About the author
Debra Charles founded Novacroft in 1998, with a vision to bring talented individuals together to embrace technology and innovation and change the way things are done for the better. Today, Novacroft is an award-winning smart technology and software solution company helping clients such as Transport for London and the Royal British Legion get more for less and making life easier for all.
Debra was a finalist in the 2012 NatWest Everywoman awards, before being named entrepreneur alumnus of the year by Cranfield University in 2013. She was a finalist for the Smith & Williamson Entrepreneur of the Year in the National Business Awards 2015.