Female software engineer with projected code

8th November marks STEM Day, which aims to encourage more people into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries.

It’s a well-known and standing fact that women are underrepresented in STEM; women make up only 16% of engineering and technology graduates.

We asked female leaders of prominent tech companies to share what they think should be done to encourage women into and retain women in STEM:

Time for businesses to take charge

“Businesses and institutions need to change. There is no excuse in 2022 not to have balanced, diversified, and inclusive teams.” Liz Parnell, COO, EMEA, Rackspace Technology argues. “Teach unconscious bias as part of your company onboarding; and walk the talk every day with your policies, behaviours and level of transparency.”

Laura Malins, VP Product, Matillion agrees: “Greater transparency is important. Companies’ values need to be made clearer so women can identify an employer whose values mirror their own. That will give them the freedom and support needed to test out different areas of tech and find roles that provide them both with the right work-life balance, and the opportunity to add value to the business.”

“Businesses need to make a conscious effort to recruit employees from a diverse range of backgrounds.” Clare Loveridge, VP and General Manager EMEA, Arctic Wolf states. “This will allow businesses to attract more talent and develop more creative ways of thinking, contributing to the development of highly innovative solutions to the complex challenges facing leaders today.”

Siobhan Ryan, Sales Director Ireland and Scotland, UiPath remarks on how businesses can help their female workforce: “Businesses need to ensure women are inspired and able to contribute, participate and enjoy their roles. Mentoring programmes, community networks, and supported learning opportunities can help women to grow and succeed.”

Businesses need to carefully think about their approaches to diversity and inclusion strategies to make change, argues Pam Maynard, CEO, Avanade: “Fundamentally, there is an issue with the way some organisations approach DE&I, only paying it lip service to keep employees happy and avoid difficult conversations. It’s time for change, and diversity needs to be tackled head on and from the very top.”

“Despite the sector having strong female leaders in the NHS, with the national CIO and CTO being women, we continue to overlook providing the right funding and support for women pursuing STEM careers in health at every level.” Katherine Church, Tech+ Director, Grayce offers an insight into closing the gender gap in health tech. “We need to increase the levels of VC and PE funding for Femtech and female founders so that women’s health issues and careers are properly addressed.”

Fostering opportunities 

“STEM Day comes as a needed reminder that we must continue to encourage girls and women to study STEM subjects and provide opportunities that will help them to develop skills in the space.” says EJ Cay, VP UKI, Genesys

Estella Reed, Head of People, Distributed argues that those not from STEM-oriented educational backgrounds should still be encouraged into STEM: “When government and businesses dismiss so-called “softer” or “mickey mouse” university courses and qualifications, they are limiting the diversity of their workforces and ability to access the best talent. Many of the best software engineers working in the industry, for example, come from arts and humanities backgrounds.”

Sue-Ellen Wright, Managing Director of Aerospace Defence and Security, Sopra Steria, agrees that diversity in recruitment is essential: “The challenge the tech industry faces is that, to increase creativity, it must improve diversity to further encourage a broader range of perspectives and ideas.”

“In a male-dominated industry, it is critical we continue to pursue diversity of thought, especially as we seek to apply the “digital” truths we have learned from the past thirty years or so.” Caroline Vignollet, SVP Research & Development, OneSpan gives her view on the importance of diversity in tech. “For example, as we explore new technologies and digital experiences, such as in web 3.0, we are doing so with all the available talent, understanding and approaches at our disposal.”

Accessibility is key, Jamie Lyon, Vice President of Strategy and Development, Lucid Software notes: “It’s important for STEM-related educational and career development opportunities to be more accessible to women. These build a foundation of interest and technical skill sets for women wanting to enter the tech industry.”

Women need to be able to access the same educational opportunities as their male peers to succeed. “Recent research shows that men are over a third more likely to receive digital upskilling than their female counterparts.” Mairead O’Connor, Exec for Cloud Engineering, AND Digital  observes. “This needs to change.”

For Poornima Ramaswamy, Chief Transformation Officer, Qlik, this education should include data and digital skills: “We must ensure girls are taught relevant data and digital skills at an early age to prepare them for the increasingly data-centric world we now live in. Our research found business leaders and employees alike predict that data literacy will be the most in-demand skill by 2030.”

The importance of self-confidence

Najla Aissaoui, Talent Acquisition & HR manager, Venari Security states: “For girls and women looking at a career in STEM, never underestimate your power and skills. Don’t be afraid to try and fail, just make sure to learn from your failures.”

Pantea Razzaghi, Head of Design, Automata encourages women to not bow down to pressure: “For women in STEM, it can feel like there’s added pressure to succeed and even outperform, as the industry is still very much male-dominated. However, often we are our biggest critics. My advice for young women early into their science and engineering journey will be to not dwell on mistakes for too long. Mistakes are a critical part of scientific discovery – that’s how innovation works.”

“My sincere advice; don’t listen too much to what others have to say about you or your ability to thrive in this sector.” Renske Galema, Area VP, North EMEA at CyberArk concludes. “Follow your own mind and find the fun in continuous learning.”