Women in STEM


Gurren Lagann - Teacher Yoko

It’s just another of the many articles I come across these days, examining the lack of women in senior management positions, and science, technology (IT), engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles in general, and even in academia.

But first, let’s address this:

Encouraging kids of any gender to do science and technology is difficult thanks to perceptions that both are too hard, too nerdish, and hold limited employment prospects.

I don’t know where they pulled this from, but it seems to me not that difficult at all at least in the case of science. Most people, that is to say girls, at my school were more reluctant about technology though, although that is ultimately the basis on which we are building much of our future. There are limitless employment prospects there, but I digress.

Let's move back to this war

Not only do females represent a small percentage of senior management, they also represent a small amount of the overall workforce, and even though there is proof this is getting better, it is at such a glacial rate that it could take over 60 years to get to where it should be. Most of these roles are additionally for administration and logistics support, management and operations, rather than technical and professional.

As the article says, “there are barriers, and not just of the “women must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good” type”, leading to this need for women to ‘prove’ themselves to their colleagues.

As I mentioned in my last post, however, many women leave the work force to start families and afterwards have many difficulties trying to work their way back in, often never achieving as high a position as they had previously. It is good to see an attempt is being made to ensure these women are integrated back into the work force.

“Maternity and paternity policies were archaic compared to Europe; there were very few women in senior roles and not a lot of impetus to change things,” [Parton] says.

Additionally:

“From my observations and commentary from peers, it also seems a very high proportion of CIOs are men and many recruit in their own image. In one particular organisation, the CIO recruited his skiing and drinking buddies who proudly displayed photos of themselves together in their offices.”

Beveridge from the article agrees, saying that this has simply allowed the male majority to perpetuate the male majority. While not intentional, it is regardless still an issue, and the reason HR have established tools and techniques to assess potential employees.

Messages to take away

During the article, this bit I particularly agreed with and found inspirational also. Who hasn’t done groupwork and been frustrated with the result, rushing to ensure everyone got their work in at the last moment. Even when group dynamics are good, this happens often.

It all starts at the top, says Parton, and not with words but with action and role modelling. “A very successful senior woman I know working in wealth management has a high performing team who are predominantly women.

She told me her team had come up with a core principle by which they would operate, that ‘we have got each other’s backs’, which I thought that was amazing and inspirational,” she says.

But ultimately, women’s problems can largely be summed down to two things.

“There is now new and pretty consistent material emerging that shows the two major impediments to women’s progress are, firstly, self confidence and belief as women set high standards for themselves; and secondly, unconscious biases that they encounter in the workplace. If we can help women overcome those two barriers to success, the rest will follow.”

I have faced these myself, particularly the self-confidence aspect. While I largely blame myself for what could have been biases, it’s hard to tell. It’s the old ‘domestic violence’ or even rapist situation where the women believes she simply brought that treatment on herself. Whether it is or not, I don’t know.

Regardless, there had been much research done to prove the positive impact and value of increased representation of women in senior positions, yet the statistics currently seem to point to a downhill trend. Friends in the past have said it should be easy for me to get a job, whatwith ‘Women in IT’ programs eager to accept girls, but it’s not really that simple.