Women in science, students doing chemical experiment in lab

Every year, the 11th of February marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This awareness day was first established in 2015 by the UN, with the aim to highlight the necessity of full and equal access to and participation in science – regardless of gender.

This year in particular, the theme of the day was centred around I.D.E.A.S (Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance. Sustain.). This theme focused on the role of women and girls in science in relation to the climate crisis and our ability to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 – highlighting the female scientists on the forefront of climate action.

In recent years, pioneering women have shown that women can thrive in STEM industries – just think back to the female scientists around the world who played a key role in developing COVID-19 vaccines. As Caroline Seymour, VP of Product Marketing at Zerto, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, points out:

“Over the past few decades, the industry has made tremendous strides in bringing women and girls into the field of science and technology. However, International Day of Women and Girls in Science serves as an important reminder of how far we still have to go.”

The significance of diversifying the workforce

One of the areas that have come a long way in terms of female inclusion in STEM is the relatively newfound significance placed onto getting women in the workforce. However, this has only been made possible through dedicated initiatives.

Caroline Mantle,​ Strategic Alliance Manager at Six Degrees, highlights: “Diversifying the workforce in STEM is now a topic of much needed discussion, with many organisations making a concerted effort to increase the gender balance through various schemes and outreaches. ‘Returnship’ programmes’ that specifically help reignite the careers of women returning to roles in STEM are a great example of this progress.”

Though such initiatives are a massive step forward, offering much needed support for women in the industry, organisations also need to ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to ensure that women have equal opportunities for progression and development.

As Zerto’s Seymour explains: “Awareness and sensitivity to the gender gap issue is greater than ever. But there is still so much more to be done to change the industry’s culture, to close this gap and encourage more women into high tech jobs. Employers should make sure that they understand gender-balance data in their company, create gender-neutral job descriptions, ensure women are part of the interviewing team, ensure that interview rounds include diverse candidates, conduct regular pay equity reviews to attract and retain candidates, offer mentorship and advancement programs and lastly regularly evaluate hiring and promotion processes to eliminate bias.”

With the global skills shortage currently affecting most technological industries, it is now more important than ever for organisations to advocate for greater female involvement in scientific fields. After all, women make up around 47% of the global workforce, but still account for only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics – making them a key source of potential talent.

“With technology evolving at pace, and the skills crisis threatening future economic growth, investing in girls in STEM will enable organisations to open up a crucial talent pool. We must do more to encourage inclusion,” outlines Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft.

Inclusion begins in education

In order to encourage women to join the tech workforce, we must first prioritise getting girls involved with science from a young age – removing the stereotype that it is ‘for the boys’.

Agata NowakowskaAs Skillsoft’s Nowakowska states, “with over a quarter of female students saying they’ve been put off a career in technology as it’s too male-dominated, schools need to challenge this perception by offering female students opportunities to learn to code, build websites or use robotic toys.” Companies can also support this drive for female participation, as she goes on to say, “businesses can help supplement these initiatives by showcasing female role models, organising technology-related events and work experience opportunities.”

Six Degrees’ Mantle shares the belief that more needs to be done to encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM, declaring:

“A crucial element of this mission is still lacking. We need more girls at school level interested in pursuing STEM subjects at a more advanced level. Currently only 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women. While organisations reflect on how they are facilitating success for the women already in their workforces, they should also be turning their focus to establish how they can support local schools and students to encourage them to continue with STEM learning and consider a career in technology.”

The future is female

While it is important to recognise how far we have come already, it is also vital that we don’t slow down when it comes to getting more women and girls involved with science and technology. With the world facing scientific developments and challenges at a phenomenal pace, whether that be overcoming a global pandemic, creating the latest technology, or fighting climate change, women and girls are an invaluable resource that we cannot afford to overlook.

As Zerto’s Seymour concludes, “I have worked in the sector my whole career and its constant evolution continues to fascinate me. There were very few women in tech when I began my career, and while this has certainly increased over the years, sadly, it is still predominantly a male-dominated industry. There is most definitely a huge opportunity here for women, especially within the engineering, software, cybersecurity, cloud, and AI sectors.’