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:

One Tech World Virtual Conference 2022

01 APRIL 2022

Book your place now to what is becoming the largest virtual conference for women in technology in 2022

FIND OUT MORE

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.

 


diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profiles

International Day of Women & Girls in Science: Diversity in will equal fairness out

diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profiles

Louise Lunn, Vice President, Global Analytics Delivery, FICO discusses the critical need for diversity in the people behind data analytics on International Day of Women and Girls in Science

The United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science throws a spotlight on achieving full and equal access and participation for women and girls in science, citing the importance of this goal in global development. The UN has highlighted that over the past decades the global community has made great strides in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science, yet there is still much work to be done.

This is the case in financial services as much as many other sectors. One critical area is artificial intelligence (AI) and how it affects financial decisioning.

There’s no contesting the far-reaching growth of AI. From loan applications to fraud prevention, it and machine learning are entrenched in our lives and has a say in the important decisions we make as well as those that are made for us. To make fair and accurate assessments, AI software needs to be reflective of the people it scrutinises and the best way to achieve this is to have a diverse team at work.

Of course, gone are the days of gender discrimination in financial decisions – it is mandated that risk cannot be measured based on gender. But to achieve the equality that is expected of financial services providers, it is crucial to make it easier for girls and women to enter the sector and further their careers, because one of the real challenges in AI is fighting the bias that can be coded into the models themselves.

One Tech World Virtual Conference 2022

01 APRIL 2022

Book your place now to what is becoming the largest virtual conference for women in technology in 2022

FIND OUT MORE

All AI models are trained on datasets, and these datasets frequently have coded into them a level of bias. In fact, FICO Chief Analytics Officer Scott Zoldi says, “All data is biased.” It’s up to the data scientists to correct for this, and that is why it is so important to achieve more diverse teams building AI.

Recognising that we need diversity in innovation and teams is the first step. In many cases, AI learns from data generated by human actions. Left unchecked by data scientists, algorithms can mimic our biases, conscious or not. However, we can mitigate those biases by including people across race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and economic conditions to challenge our own thinking views. By bringing in people with different thoughts and approaches to our own, analytics teams will see a quick improvement in their code.

For any girl or woman thinking about data science as a career route, the opportunities are immense. Data scientists are a new breed of analytical experts, responsible for collecting, analysing, and interpreting extremely large amounts of data. These roles are an offshoot of several traditional technical roles, including business domain expertise, mathematicians, scientists, statisticians, and computer professionals.  All these different jobs fit into the disciplines of a data scientist.

The insights that data scientists uncover should be used to drive business decisions and take actions intended to achieve business goals. While executives are smart individuals, they may not be well-versed in all the tools, techniques, and algorithms available to a data scientist (e.g., statistical analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and so on). Part of the data scientist’s role is to translate business needs into algorithms.

The magic is also in the data scientist’s ability to deliver the results in an understandable, compelling, and insightful way, while using appropriate language and jargon level for their audience. In addition, results should always be related back to the business goals that spawned the project in the first place.

I would argue that if you accomplish diversity in your teams, you’ll make improved AI because your teams will be better at spotting bias and correcting for it. Different backgrounds drive more creative thinking, and more diverse teams tend to improve a company’s ability to solve problems. That’s just as true in data science as it is in other fields.

Louise LunnAbout the author

Louise Lunn leads FICO’s created Global Analytics Delivery organisation. Based in the UK, Louise oversees teams of data scientists worldwide who develop custom analytics solutions and exploratory analytics projects for the world’s top banks, as well as retailers, telecommunications firms, insurance companies and other businesses.   


Dr Samantha Saunders featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Samantha Saunders | Research Associate, PETA

 Dr Samantha SaundersDr Samantha Saunders is a research associate with PETA.

She is a veterinary surgeon and has a doctorate in coronavirology.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I work as a research associate with PETA’s science team. Each year in UK laboratories, around 3.5 million animals are drugged, infected, mutilated, or abused in other ways in the name of science. All my training and experience to date – first as a veterinarian, then as a scientist in a coronavirus research laboratory – has shown me that tests on animal not only are cruel but also impede scientific progress. My job involves working with government officials, companies, and scientists to communicate the weaknesses of tests on animals and promote modern, robust non-animal approaches to replace them. PETA’s Research Modernisation Deal is our plan for ushering in a new era of science without animals.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never planned my career, but I always knew I wanted to help animals. After volunteering in an animal shelter as a teenager, I decided to go to veterinary school to learn how to heal animals and keep them healthy. During veterinary school, I did a research project in a laboratory that opened my eyes to the possibility of helping many more animals by bringing about scientific breakthroughs, such as new treatments for diseases. This led me to my doctoral research, which involved studying a coronavirus that infects cats to help develop better vaccines and treatments against that virus. Even though my research used cells rather than live animals, I worked alongside people who experimented on mice and rats, and I became disturbed by the futility of their efforts. They were not only harming and killing these sensitive animals but also failing to generate any useful information. This led me to my current role, in which I help prevent more animals from being used in pointless experiments.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I have been an ethical vegan for many years now, and some aspects of veterinary school were very challenging from an ethical point of view – for example, working in an abattoir and on animal farms. It was difficult to witness animals undergoing surgery without pain relief, being killed in full sight of their companions, and being confined to cages too small to allow them to turn around – all routine practices on UK farms. Sometimes, knowing that I could do more good as a qualified veterinarian was the only thing that kept me going.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My PhD involved using molecular biology techniques to study a feline coronavirus. Some time after I had graduated and started working at PETA, the pandemic emerged, and I was called upon to go back to the coronavirus laboratory where I’d done my doctoral research to develop testing methods for the virus that causes COVID-19. I felt very proud to be able to use my skills to help tackle such a real and urgent problem.

Since joining PETA, one of the projects I’ve been most excited about being involved in is our work to end cosmetics tests on animals in the EU. Although tests on animals for cosmetics ingredients have been banned in the EU under the Cosmetics Regulation since 2013, such tests are still being done under the pretext of chemical safety testing. We’re working hard to stop this practice, because we recognise that the life of an animal is worth more than a tube of toothpaste or sunscreen.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I’ve always let what I’m interested in and passionate about dictate what I do. This hasn’t led me on the most straightforward career path, but I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from every step of it.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Find that sweet spot where what you’re passionate about and what you’re good at meet, and do whatever you can to make that your job. For me, that’s using my science expertise and communication skills to promote approaches to research and testing that benefit society and keep animals out of laboratories.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

As the famous phrase goes, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Women have historically been seriously underrepresented in STEM fields, and that is still reflected in the lack of women in senior management positions in some organisations. This was very much the case in veterinary practice and academia, in which most of the junior positions were filled by women and most of the senior positions by men. I am very grateful I now work in an organisation that was founded by a pioneering woman and is led by an amazing group of kick-ass women – there’s no shortage of inspirational role models at PETA!

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Universities need to equip women with the skills necessary to thrive in STEM fields. For life sciences students, that means comprehensive training in animal-free approaches to research and testing. As in vitro (cell-based) and in silico (computer-based) methods are growing massively in popularity, this is the only way to future-proof students’ skills.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

For scientists interested in working in the exciting, rapidly expanding fields of in vitro and in silico research and testing, the PETA Science Consortium International e.V. website contains a wealth of information. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre offers a summer school for students and early-career scientists eager to learn about non-animal approaches in science. And, of course, you can’t miss the European Congress on Alternatives to Animal Testing – the most exciting animal-free science event on the calendar!


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here