The dire need of Women in STEM – It’s Now or Never!
2020 is a year that brought along many surprises with it-The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The only constant this year was change, followed by the rush to adapt to this change. Speaking about the pace of acceleration of this digital adaptation,
“Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella rightly said, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” One vital aspect here to materialise these changes was the shift in mindsets, whether we talk about the attitude regarding WFH, moving to cloud, or embracing emerging technologies.”
Today, when we look at STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) it’s almost unbelievable that with the kind of advances we’re making in the field, women are still a minority in the space. While this has been discussed time and again, it’s time we materialize the changes we want to see in our world, and we bring in that change now. The good news is – it has already begun.
Organizations around the world are embracing the ‘Work from Anywhere’ culture increasingly, and many have called it the ‘new normal’. Some experts believe this flexible working environment will lower the barriers and pull more women into the workforce. With a focus on progressive aspects of employee safety and wellbeing, such as an increased focus on work-life balance and mental-emotional well-being, along with aspects like increased empathy among colleagues, and rejigging of gender roles even when it comes to domestic chores, will ultimately make the tech industry more attractive to women.
Stemming out for STEM
One of the aspects of bridging the gender gap is making more young women passionate about STEM, not forcing it onto them of course but providing them with the choice to explore their interests. Education plays a crucial role here and aids in sparking that interest in students, right from the early days. Science and technology subjects are very interesting; hence busting myths around them is paramount. The numbers to focus on here are that on one hand, India tops the charts when it comes to producing female STEM graduates while on other, ranks 19th when it comes to employing them. How do we stem out and bridge this gap? While we have the potential talent base, how do we enable an environment that makes them think about their career in STEM?
To start off, we need to build a strong foundation by showcasing female role models who can help these budding aspirants see the contribution that women have made in STEM till day. A great exposure to thriving women professionals in STEM can not only inspire these young women but also helps them realise their true potential while releasing them from the bonds that are creating a hinderance when it comes to choosing or charting a career in this field.
Answering the ‘Why’
According to United Nations, women are only 14% of the 2,80,000 scientists, engineers, and technologists in Research development institutes in India, while the global average is 28.4%.
Our industry needs more women not just because it is a part of a larger Diversity and Inclusion agenda or because just of social justice, but because it’s imperative for unbiased and creative teams to exist that drive equitable innovation across organizations and ultimately be able to create equitable solutions for the society-at-large.
While emerging digital and transformation technologies are changing our world for the better, it is imperative to have women at the epicentre of this change so that gender biases can be eradicated from the root. When it comes to technologies, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, this becomes even more crucial as these futuristic systems will be based on lopsided data due to lack of diverse workforces. For instance, we’ve always heard that ‘AI is as good as the data it’s built on’ but by being more inclusive, we can rectify these innovations for our future. This doesn’t mean that we are doing away with everything that we have done so far, but we are looking at how we can make it more inclusive and equitable.
In the end, it’s about leveraging the trifecta – The Industry, The Government and The Society to come together and bridge this gap in STEM. It’s about all the forces coming together to ensure that we have our own Geeta Menon’s and Padmasree Warrior’s to lead the STEM sector in India into a new dawn of success.