Did you know that only 17% of tech roles are occupied by women, a percentage that has remained largely stagnant for 10 years? There are plenty of complex barriers that prevent women getting into STEM, particularly tech. Harmful gender roles govern the toys girls are allowed to play with from an early age, boys are encouraged to be risk takers, and tech isn’t promoted as ‘girly’ or ‘cool’.
These deep-set societal beliefs influence the number of girls engaged with tech from an early age, eventually leading to a smaller talent pool. The phrase ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ rings true here, and young women lack relatable role models and quality career guidance in the sector. Indeed, in 2018 just 9% of female graduates studied a core STEM subject, and currently only 15.1% of SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) managers are women. The percentage of female tech managers is likely to be much lower, as better gender equality in the Science industry skews this data (women make up 46.4% of science professionals).
Simply put, at every stage of learning and development women face barriers to accessing a career in tech – from the pressure to conform to expectations of femininity, to alienating experiences of male-dominated university courses, to sexist work cultures. There are, however, some brilliant organisations working to champion women in STEM, and inspiring the next generation. We’ve rounded up 4 of the best.
Stemettes is a social enterprise working across the UK and Ireland to inspire and support young women in to STEM careers. Set up in 2013, they run intersectional programmes, events and a content platform supporting women and people of marginalised genders aged between 5–25.
Corporate partners including O2 and Deutsche Bank provide the organisation with funding, mentors, free space for events, Wi-Fi, and food; so far more than 45,000 young people have interacted with Stemettes, and the organisation aims to reach 500,000 people by 2025.
We particularly loved Stemette’s interactive Zine content platform, which offers a welcoming space for young women to engage with blog posts, interviews with role models, and advice on careers.
Tech Talent Charter
Tech Talent Charter is an industry-led non-profit organisation set up in 2017 to address inequality in the UK tech sector. It aims to drive inclusion and diversity in actionable and measurable ways by getting companies to commit to a pledge and share knowledge on successful practices. The initiative is supported by the government’s digital strategy, and signatories include Channel 4, Vodafone, Unilever and KPMG.
Each charter member must develop a plan to improve inclusion in employing and retaining a diverse workforce – this also covers recruitment and promotion processes . An executive level member of the company is responsible for overseeing the successful implementation of these changes, and must contribute company data to TTC’s annual Diversity in Tech report. The non-profit also encourages collaboration between member organisations through an open-source tool, sharing information on the entire people and culture pipeline.
Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code is an international non-profit that establishes coding clubs for girls aged 11-18. The organisation currently facilitates 265 clubs in the UK, run at schools or in local community groups. Girls Who Code aims to close the gender gap in in entry-level jobs by 2030 and has already reached 450,000 girls worldwide, with 50% of participants from underrepresented groups.
Adults running clubs can access educational and promotional resources for students, as well as training and support on teaching coding. The non-profit hope to embed coding and programming skills from an early age and build confidence in young women.
In the US the organisation has high-profile political supporters, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Corporate partners include Walmart, Apple and Deloitte.
Women into Science and Engineering (WISE)
WISE is a UK Community Interest Company (CIC) who provide B2B services to employers, educators and training providers around the advancement of women in STEM.
WISE’s remit is wide, and they work across research, training, career opportunities and projects, thanks to close association with government bodies. Their research and PR activities are often featured across the British media.
Like the Tech Talent Charter, WISE offers resources for members on inclusion and diversity, who include the British Army and Capita. The CIC also facilitates development opportunities, such as mid-career mentoring programmes with Network Rail to women in Engineering, and provides advice to women in the STEM sectors. WISE are also a partner of the STEM Accord, a new initiative aimed at engaging young people, particularly girls, into STEM. Thanks to the legacy of being closely associated with the public sector, WISE hold significant influence in the sector and feature royal patronage from HRH Princess Anne.
Gender inequality in STEM and the technology sector won’t conveniently disappear, it needs targeted actions and initiatives to change educational practices, work culture and gender stereotypes. This is by no means an easy feat, but the contributions of these 4 organisations offer promising steps in the right direction.
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