International Day of Women and Girls in Science, African female scientist in protective glasses looking and testing tube chemical in laboratory, development for the future.

Sandra Mottoh, Regulatory Expert and passionate campaigner for re-addressing workplace gender balance specifically in male dominated sectors such as banking and tech, discusses the importance of encouraging girls studying STEM subjects from an early age.

Historically, we have seen fewer girls than boys studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in school, which over the course of multiple generations has resulted in a noticeable imbalance of women in the workplaces of STEM-related professions.

It is widely acknowledged there are multiple contributing factors but, in my opinion, the key one to identify is the lower number of female role models connected to STEM businesses, in prominent positions of power and in the mainstream media. As a society we must recognise that we have undergone a generation mindset shift, now rightly challenging our perceptions of what female, male and non-binary individuals can achieve. More than ever before, we are conscious to rebalance the gender bias within schools, university admissions, entry-level recruitment processes and ultimately who sits on the top of corporate boards.

We cannot underestimate the fact that some girls have a natural preference towards social sciences and the arts over STEM subjects, but undoubtedly can be successful in either. As a feminist, I believe girls’ preferences should be valued and celebrated. Girls should have equal access to opportunities should they desire to pursue a STEM qualification or not.

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Statistics show that significantly more men than women study the disciplines that most technical positions require, such as computer science or data science at Masters or PhD level. Therefore, in order to bridge the gap, there has been a noticeable trend with women taking up more management or administrative roles within STEM industries as an alternative route in; a strategic move that enables women leverage their (innate or learned) skill set within  STEM sector. My belief is that the technical industries could adopt the ‘innovative hiring process’ by inviting women from other sectors to join as subject matter experts, bringing with them a fresh and balanced perspective to the industry.

Both young girls and women need to see that there are role models in the sector and through their own work they too could be celebrated. These role models are more visible alongside their male counterparts and remain relatable to others – this is crucial for younger girls in particular to see women who look and sounds like them having successful and desirable careers in tech. One such women has carved such a path is Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Meta, formerly Facebook), who oversees the firm’s business operations such as sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications. As the first female on the Board of Directors at Meta, she holds an impressive position of power within a heavily male-dominated work environment that beautifully illuminates to ambitious youngsters what can be achieved with academic application and hard work.

Having learned lessons the hard way through my own personal career, my advice to young girls reading this or those in an educational position supporting the next generation, would be to not let fear get in the way of making a start – this is your first step. I cannot stress how important it is to just make a start and then keep going, as making it in the STEM world will take a concerted level of dedication and determination. Invest in yourself to ensure you acquire the necessary skills and work experience to forge the successful career in tech that you desire and deserve to have. Remember that tech is here stay for decades to come and will constantly be evolving at any increasingly rapid pace, so only those who are prepared will excel.

Sandra MottohAbout the author

Sandra Mottoh, who after working in Regulatory Compliance and Governance in the banking sector for the past 20 years, is now also focussing her social enterprise endeavours (AI White Box) on identifying the compliance gaps in the emerging AI sector. As a black woman, she is passionately campaigning to help more women enter the world of AI, particularly those coming from financially challenged and ethnic minority backgrounds. Her legacy is to model financial empowerment to women in a way that liberates their lives.