Today, February 11, marks International Day for Women and Girls in Science.
There are so many incredible achievements from women scientists to celebrate and champion on this day. Pioneers like Sarah Gilbert, Tessa Lambe and Catherine Green who helped develop the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, climate and sustainability activists like Greta Thunberg and Jane Goodall, and to the women of our past like Sophia Jex-Blake and the Edinburgh Seven, Williamina Fleming, May Somerville and many more who helped lay the foundations for women’s participation in STEM
However, there is still much work to be done to level the playing field for women’s participation in Science and the wider STEM fields. With so many jobs of the future in STEM fields, it’s imperative that we reduce the gender gap in Science, Engineering and Tech sectors. Research shows that women currently make up 25% of the Scottish STEM sector.
With the growth of the green skills sector, developing and emerging technologies including AR, VR and cloud computing, infrastructure expansion and improvements all reliant on emerging talent to fulfil needs and enable Scottish innovation and success, we must utilise the skills, innovation, and potential of our entire population.
Boys and girls start out with equal interest and ability in STEM areas but over time girls’ participation begins to drop, this is regardless of interest and academic capability.
By the time girls reach the stage of choosing subjects at secondary school many have been steered away from STEM pathways through expectations and stereotyping. We need girls and boys to see subjects as being ‘non-gendered’ and feel able to pursue what subjects and career paths interest them.
Unfortunately, this talent drain continues through the next stages of the career pipeline.
Out of the number of women who make it past the first few leaks in the pipeline, who pursue subjects through university and qualify in STEM subjects, over 70% of them will not remain in the industry long-term.
From that 30%, only a small minority will make it to senior roles. Many of them will feel that their accomplishments are being overlooked, and many will report stress at balancing careers and caring responsibilities in an inflexible work environment.
However, change is on its way. STEM employers are not only aware of the issues but enthusiastic in identifying solutions and the issue of women’s participation in STEM has never been a higher political or economic priority.
Equate Scotland know that by working with students, with women, with academia, and with the STEM industry, we can create a sector which is inclusive and attractive to women, reduce the gender gap in STEM sectors, and help Scotland become a progressive and innovative trailblazer on the world stage.