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.

The importance of International Day of Women and Girls in Science

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.

Businesses have faced a seismic change in the way they work in the past year.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that momentum and interest to accelerate gender parity in STEM has taken a backseat. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s report, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs, with women making up 39 per cent of global employment but also accounting for 54 per cent of overall job losses. This needs to change.

On the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let’s rewrite the narrative. Celebrating women in STEM who are leading innovation and a call for actions to remove all barriers that hold them back.

Here we speak to a range of inspiring women from industries such as biotech, the future of work and more, on the significance of this day with tips on how to tackle the gender divide in STEM.

Emma Davies, Principal Scientist at Healx:

Gender inequality in STEM won’t be resolved by celebrating one day a year. But on ‘International Day of Women and Girls in Science’ I want to take the opportunity to challenge gender preconceptions and recognise why women should and can choose a career in science.

It’s important to find what you love. For me, I was always interested in nature and the natural world. Luckily my school saw that interest and supported me in nourishing it. I looked at the scientific greats and didn’t see that they were predominantly male – I just saw them as scientists and I felt I could strive for that if I wanted it.

I love the challenges that being a scientist brings. Each new discovery opens up a new question, and the knowledge that the work we are doing at Healx will have a positive impact on patients and families in the future is pretty rewarding too.

Being a scientist is essentially being a problem solver. Teams are better at solving problems if they have a diverse set of life experiences. STEM offers a huge range of opportunities, so look beyond the curriculum and seek what interests you and pursue an education and career in that field.

Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girls:

In 2021, the gender gap remains a global phenomenon—especially in science and technology-related fields. On ‘International Day of Women and Girls in Science’, I want to raise this issue and explore one way that individuals and organisations can enact change and challenge these gender preconceptions on a daily basis.

To achieve gender parity in tech, organisations must create an open and inclusive culture that encourages conversations between women. This can’t be a top-down approach but something the whole team believes in, cultivating a work environment where women are empowered to share and learn from their combined experiences.

Whether you’ve been working in a tech-based career for a long period of time or looking to transition into this sector, the guidance and support a mentor can provide is invaluable. Female mentorship can help you with technical guidance, expanding your network of personal and professional contacts, and acclimatising to a new company culture – especially, if it’s a male-dominated one. At Code First Girls, we have built a community of over 20,000 women who actively help each other to break into and excel in the tech industry – take the plunge, find your group and finally, return the favour.

Kate Reading, Platform Area Engineering Lead at Asana:

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Resolving gender inequality in STEM isn’t an issue that can be resolved overnight. Instead, on ‘International Day of Women and Girls in Science’, we must use this day to mark a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

The past year of remote work has fuelled feelings of self-doubt and affected our ability to speak up. Perhaps unsurprisingly, confidence is an issue with 69 per cent of UK workers having experienced imposter syndrome last year and 25 per cent of women acknowledging that they chose not to study STEM subjects, because they didn’t think they could cope with them. As a first step to tackling this, we must cultivate an inclusive work environment where everyone feels empowered to raise issues, and seek support and mentorship.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the transition to remote work, we have an opportunity to reflect upon what worked well and what didn’t for women in STEM. Over the past year, we’ve learned that connecting with people is hard, especially when you’re remote, one of the only women on your team, and surrounded by distractions at home. That’s why we’ve set up a six-month, virtual mentorship pairing program for gender minorities in technical roles at Asana, matching mentors with mentees based on their goals and interests. Establishing a sense of belonging while increasing representation across the organisation, empowers everyone to do their best work and thrive, no matter where they’re located.

June Ko, General Counsel at CircleCI:

To become a successful female leader in tech (or any industry, for that matter), build strong relationships and especially a strong support network. While day to day, it is sometimes all too easy to solely focus on the work itself (especially when you have an incredibly busy job!), it is equally important to invest in people, to show your human side and build trust. Your support squad, which can come in various forms and sometimes from unlikely places — such as a colleague, a partner, a friend, or someone you meet at a conference — will be invaluable as you build your career in tech. Having a community, and especially someone to talk to who’s living a similar experience, provides a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas and feel supported, while also supporting others. These relationships will infuse your career with greater meaning, because connecting with, inspiring and helping others — especially other women in tech! — is extremely gratifying. They will also sustain you through the inevitable ups and downs you will encounter. When you show up for others, they will show up for you, too. And one day, when you’re least expecting it, you may gain access to an incredible opportunity because someone brings up your name and promotes you, when you are not even in the room.

Michele Romanow, Co-founder and President at Clearbanc:

2020 was brutal for everyone, but it’s never been a better time to be a woman in STEM. Entrepreneurship is never easy, and there will always be setbacks. Thanks to moments like the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, this is the strongest spotlight we’ve ever had on the issues women face in tech and entrepreneurship. It’s easier to start a company than ever before with the rise of technology. I couldn’t have the career I have now if I started out 20 years ago.

But it’s still really hard to build a successful business. The majority of VC funding today goes to men in major cities like London, while women and minorities across the rest of the UK never get a chance. Our mission at Clearbanc has always been to create opportunities for all founders, no matter who they know or where they went to school. And it’s working — Clearbanc’s data-driven tech has invested in 8x more women than traditional VC. We want to fund the next generation of great entrepreneurs.