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Securing our future: The upsurge of women in STEM careers

By Jenny Davies, CEO of M247

Women in STEMOver the past five years there has been a steady increase of women choosing to enter the UK STEM workforce.

Statistics show a seven percent rise of females working within this industry - a figure which currently stands at 908,138. While this is heading in the right direction, it is important to ensure that this number keeps on rising to address gender imbalances within STEM related industries.

Working in a male-dominated environment

I have always worked for companies where the majority of employees are male, but this certainly hasn’t stopped me from building a successful career. In fact, I would say it has made me more adaptable and possibly more resilient. When I was younger, my parents thought I would go into teaching or a job which used my languages degree, but I had different ambitions. I have spent my life working for STEM organisations such as United Utilities and BT and this helped me learn new skills while at the same time developing my qualities as a business leader. Currently, I’m now CEO of leading cloud service provider, M247, which puts me in a great position to help encourage women into STEM careers.

For some women, it can be a challenge working within predominantly male sectors; and, from my experience, they typically need to demonstrate their ability in order to gain the same level of credit as men. For instance, research shows that men apply for a job when they only meet 60% of the outlined qualifications, whereas women are not confident unless they meet all requirements. However, (thankfully) I believe this mentality is slowly starting to change, and more businesses are diversifying their workforces with women in senior management positions.

Encouraging women into the STEM workforce

It’s encouraging to see an upsurge of women entering the STEM workforce; and, there are a number things that organisations, universities and business leaders can do attract more female talent into the STEM industry.

Higher education institutions and universities have both shown increasing numbers of female students participating in STEM subjects, with 26% of STEM graduates now being women. To make sure this figure keeps improving, universities need to put measures in place to breakdown gender barriers. This can be done by hiring and involving more female faculty members within core STEM subjects and showcasing the fantastic career options on offer in STEM industries after higher education.

Businesses also have an important part to play. Whether this be advocating female role models to attract new talent, offering apprenticeships to school leavers or making sure there is a good representation of women within leadership roles across the company; organisations need to champion diversity to tackle gender imbalance and have a strong ethos against gender discrimination. For example, at M247, we are very open minded and pride ourselves on cultivating raw talent, irrespective of gender. We always stress the importance of recognising unconscious bias and to only judge people on their ability to do the job.

The future of women in STEM

Developments in technology and changes in the economy have contributed to a skills gap in the UK STEM industry, leaving a shortfall of around 173,000 skilled STEM workers. The number of new roles within the sector is set to double over the next 10 years, meaning companies need to focus on finding new talent to fill these positions. Based on these figures, I believe that it is necessary to create more opportunities for women to start a career within STEM, as this will help close the gap while also securing the future of females within the industry.

My advice for any woman looking to embark on this career path is to know that it is okay to be different - know your worth, work really hard and let the results speak for themselves. Whether you’re a data analyst, a software engineer or a CEO of a tech company, the STEM industry is filled with plenty of learning opportunities, and each day is filled with new and exciting challenges.

Jenny DaviesAbout the author

Jenny Davies is the CEO of M247, a leading global provider of secure connectivity, cloud and hosting services. She has over ten years of leadership experience, and has previously worked for companies such as United Utilities and BT. Recently, she has been recognised as Business Leader of the Year at the Women in IT Awards; and, Top City Region Leader in Greater Manchester by The Business Desk.