How To Inspire Women To Get Into STEM
If you asked your child to draw a programmer, who would they draw? According to several studies, girls were twice as likely to draw men as they were to draw women, while boys almost universally drew men. Sadly, these children’s drawings are not too far from reality. Although the number of female students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields is steadily growing, women still make up only 26%. A similar situation can be observed in the workforce — only 22% of women work in STEM fields.
The stereotype that a job in technology is only for men still persists, however, we are happy that more and more women are getting into this field. Women are incredibly creative, patient, detail-oriented, and empathetic. They’re also fantastic communicators — all of these are skills vital for the tech industry. And don’t forget there are many different jobs in STEM fields, too. Products need to be designed, made, marketed and sold — there’s so much more than writing code.
So what is there about technology that is exciting? It’s the impact, she claims: With the digital world that we live in, a product can reach millions of people globally. Working in technology, people get to see all the excitement it brings, as it’s such a rapidly evolving sphere. While changing job fields can be exciting, it’s also very daunting. To help out women who want to get into STEM, here are some useful tips from other trailblazer experiences.
1. Talk to women who already work in STEM
How did they get to where they are? You’d be surprised how many of them planned to become lawyers or politicians, but have retrained to work in STEM. It will be encouraging to know that you are not the only one who has changed your mind or questioned your career choices. If others can make it, so can you!
2. Talk to your manager or HR
Does your workplace offer any initiatives for you to get involved? Today, many companies invest a lot of money in employee training and retraining. Several studies have shown that it is more cost-effective to retrain an employee than to hire a new one.
3. Research training and initiatives
Thanks to the idea of lifelong learning, there are now countless evening or weekend classes. You might also want to research mentoring programs, such as Million Women Mentors (MWM). Maybe someone you already know could serve as your mentor — perhaps someone you admire professionally or a successful friend?
What about young girls? It’s very important to inspire the next generation:
1. Real-life models are important. Children look up to their idols. They need to be taught about women figures that they could relate to. Young girls also need to understand that STEM skills don’t make them less ‘cool’ or ‘pretty’. For example, supermodel Karlie Kloss knows how to code and has launched a girls’ training camp called “Kode with Klossy”. That doesn’t keep her from appearing in the world’s biggest fashion shows.
2. Explaining the opportunity. Don’t just say that there are ‘career opportunities’ in STEM — children don’t understand that. Explain how technology can change and shape the future. Tickle their imagination — machines that build human organs might sound far-fetched now, but the chance to build one might just pique a young girl’s interest.
3. Nothing beats the hands-on approach. There are many classes, online courses, and competitions that offer children the opportunity to put their ideas into practice. Such activities could make the role of an engineer or a programmer more approachable and relatable.