How to inspire more women to adopt STEM

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We’ve lacked female voices in tech for too long. It is time to fix it.

Our lives have gone digital. From the products we use daily to the content we consume online, technology companies are increasingly influencing the direction of humanity and creating the solutions of the future.

The problem is that we have too few women working in these companies, especially in leadership positions, which threatens to leave half of the world’s population out of the conversations that shape our collective future since only 25% of STEM jobs. are occupied by women.

In addition, a UNESCO study found that globally, women make up just over a quarter (28%) of engineering graduates. Yet, according to a report on the status of women in technology, only 11% of practicing engineers are women.

And things appear to be heading in the wrong direction, as the World Economic Forum warns the pandemic has put women another generation behind in reaching parity.

“Technological advancements will surely fail to address women’s issues if there are no women to steer them in that direction,” says Somi Arian, technology philosopher, filmmaker, entrepreneur and founder and CEO of FemPeak. “Women need to be part of the conversation that creates solutions for the future of humanity so that we can achieve equality. “

Arian is the founder of Smart Cookie Media, a modern digital marketing company for thought leaders, as well as an investor and advisory board member of NuroKor Bioelectronics, a wearable technology startup. Somi’s latest efforts are the Think Tank for Women in Business & Technology and the FemPeak platform which aims to help raise the socio-economic status of women. Given her experience and perspective, I asked Arian to share her thoughts on how we can close the gender gap in tech as a society and get more young women interested in careers. STEM.

What is causing the problem?

The lack of women in tech begins at the education level. “From an early age, girls were taken away from careers and activities related to STEM,” says Arian. “And even those who expressed their interest were not encouraged to pursue it.”

Just 3% of female students say they would consider a career in tech as their first choice. This is apparently the result of the fact that many women lack information about what it is like to work in the tech industry or a career based on STEM.

Sadly, even women who pursue careers in STEM face a hostile workplace where they lack the support of many of their male peers. “Many women also point out how difficult it is to be heard and considered for promotions and opportunities to move up the corporate ladder,” she says.

The numbers are even more intimidating for minorities and women of color. Moreover, even if a woman enters the field, statistics show that she will be paid much less than her male peers.

Besides the lack of education and encouragement from an early age, another big factor that holds back many women is a lack of self-confidence. “Women, more than men, can find it very difficult to fight ‘impostor syndrome’ and to have the confidence that we are capable of doing anything, even conquering the technology,” says Arian.

Finally, women who enter technology often do not stay there. The UNESCO study found that women tech professionals in the United States who leave the industry most often do so because they feel undervalued.

Sensitization

As an advocate for the representation of women in the tech industry, Arian says her biggest challenge has been to get more women interested in the field, to open their eyes and to break the cycle of fear of tech. . Its goal is to help women understand the big picture that technology is for them.

“I think we need to start by improving general knowledge so that we can use the technology to its full potential,” says Arian. “This will allow us to better identify ways to improve technological products, which in turn will allow us to become better engineers and designers. “

And the first step in meeting this challenge is to get women of all ages to familiarize themselves with a conceptual understanding of technology. Arian says women should study the technologies available today, what they do and how we can use them. Books like Super intelligence by Nick Bostrom and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari are great starting points.

“Whether it’s artificial intelligence, blockchain technology or whatever,” she says, “just make sure you understand it. Read, learn and practice. Try to imagine what the future of the world and our society might look like and think about your place in that vision. Will you be a passive observer or an active participant? How can you use technology to realize your full potential? “

Reduce the gap

To start addressing inequalities in tech, we need to harness the strengths of women, Arian says, especially for women interested in entering tech later in their careers. “For example, because coding is something best learned at an early age, it’s impossible for adults to compete with someone who has been coding since the age of 9,” she says. “On the other hand, the older generation can be good at designing and engineering solutions to our everyday problems.”

Design is about developing specification requirements to solve a particular problem, while engineering is about translating those requirements into a technical specification describing a system that meets those requirements.

“Many successful businesses have been created by non-technical people,” says Arian, “who are driven by the need to solve a problem through the application of technology”. In general, many women are also adept at dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty, which allows them to approach problems from a different perspective.

There is also the business case to be made that since women make up half of the consumers in the world, it makes sense to include more women in the technology that affects us all. “With more women in these companies,” says Arian, “there will be more products that meet the needs of women, thus increasing profitability. ”

A call to action

Employers and educators can help close the gender gap in technology by taking an active position on this issue. Women of all ages can take the tech train to a better future. Stop missing out on technological advancements, urges Arian. It’s time to act.

“As women, we need to make our voices heard in this crucial industry,” says Arian. “If we’re not part of it, we won’t have a say in how it affects our lives. We need to be there and learn to use technology, which in turn will allow us to become better designers and engineers of technology.

“We can play an active role in creating solutions for the future. “


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