Lydia German and Tao Digital team

‘If she can see it, she can be it’: Why female role models are crucial in STEM

Lydia German and Tao Digital team
Image source: Tao Digital Marketing

Just 0.1% of creative digital agency owners are women, according to a 2019 study by The Drum. Female role models are crucial to increasing this number.

In this piece, Lydia German, Marketing and Outreach Team Leader at Tao Digital Marketing, discusses why.

Whenever I discuss the topic of having female role models in STEM, there’s always a vivid image that comes to mind: me, aged 11, deciding I no longer want to go to after-school IT club as I felt it was too much of a boy’s hobby, being the only girl who stayed behind for it.

Had things gone differently, would I have gone down a slightly more technical route? Maybe. I believe those early years of secondary school are a crucial period where students really start to think about their future ahead of picking their GCSE subjects and thinking ahead to college and apprenticeships.

In my previous roles in the digital tech industry, and currently as Marketing and Outreach Team Leader at Tao Digital, I’ve been fortunate enough to work under some brilliant women - a female CEO at my previous company and two incredible managers at Tao Digital. These women lead by example and have shown me the opportunities out there for women in STEM.

I’m lucky that in both roles I’ve been able to pass the baton on and mentor women who are just entering the industry, or are a few years away from it. I also love working amongst brilliant women within the team, and I found mentoring our work experience student, Summer, to be incredibly rewarding (pictured below on her last day with us!).

Summer's last day at TAO
Image source: Tao Digital Marketing

The driving force for me is that I wish I’d been able to see someone from my background, a fellow woman from Bolton, becoming a mover and shaker in the tech industry - maybe I’d have gone down a more tech-focused path. Instead, I entered the industry from the more creative route of digital PR.

Although my work isn’t as technical as many other women working in STEM, through my PR work, I’ve been able to work with and interview incredible women from a variety of industries, from insurance through to retail, law and the plumbing industry, and give them a platform to get in front of more women. In the words of feminist author Naomi Wolf: ‘General culture takes a male point of view on what’s newsworthy, so that the football is on the front page whilst a change in childcare law is buried in a paragraph inside.’ In my opinion, hearing more women’s voices, interviewed by women, is key to tackling this.

One of my favourite stories to have worked on recently is for our recruitment client, Four Recruitment. The agency’s owner, Claire Sofield, opened up about her personal fertility as part of National Fertility Week. In the piece, Claire speaks about her challenges with raising her daughter alone via IVF treatment and how she hopes that being honest and open with her workforce will encourage a safe environment for her employees who may be looking to have children in the near future.

I truly believe we need more forward-thinking female agency owners, like Claire, in the technology sector in order to support women in STEM at every stage of their career. A 2019 study by The Drum suggests that only 0.1% of creative agencies are owned by women. I wonder whether this would change if those protective measures were in place so that women aren’t frightened to take fertility or maternity leave?

Witnessing women in such positions and implementing these HR practices is incredibly empowering. To quote Naomi Wolf again: ‘Low female self esteem… has a financial value to all of society.’ Whether that’s through thinking we are unworthy of highly paid roles or feeling like we have to be people pleasers in order to climb the ranks, we need to know that our worth lies beyond our image and instead, focus on making moves in our industries and working together to better the world. Seeing other women in STEM doing this is how we achieve it.