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Tuesday December 12, 2017

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Top ways to get more women and girls into STEM

To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, ITU spoke with five leading women in the science and tech industries to ask for their advice on how to get more women interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) studies and careers.

Women represent just 30% of the entire workforce within the technology industry.

When looking at software engineering roles within the technology industry, only 15% are held by women.

“I do not think the matter is a lack of interest, rather a lack of exposure and encouragement at a younger age,” says President of Cisco Canada, Bernadette Wightman. “It starts with exposing young girls early on to STEM. We need to alter the negative perception girls may have around subjects like sciences and math. When we correct this negative perception – and encourage women to pursue their studies or career in a STEM field – we all stand to gain a lot not only as a country but as a society.”

Women represent just 30% of the entire workforce within the technology industry.When looking at software engineering roles within the technology industry, only 15% are held by women.

This raises an important topic for discussion: if technology will help to define how we work in the future, how can that future be meaningfully realized when women aren’t playing a more significant role in shaping it?

we can get more girls and women into STEM by introducing girls to STEM at a much younger age even as young as 3-4 years when they start to daydream about what they might become; and moving away from stereotypes that show a girls’ place is just in the kitchen cooking or playing with dolls. It is crucial to expose girls early to fun, creative and collaborative STEM disciplines.

“Changing the way the STEM material is taught is important,” says Okorafor. “Presenting STEM activities in real world applications that solve relevant problems that girls grapple with, especially in low-resource emerging economies is crucial. If, for example, software coding is presented as a bunch of rules, abstract algorithms and lines of codes, you are not likely to engage the interest of girls. Rather if it is presented as hands on, fun activities with immediate or real applications for problem solving in areas girls care about, whether it be fashion, agriculture, nutrition, fetching water from a stream miles away or improving the lives of children, the interest of girls is piqued.”

We believe strongly that providing the right support in the form of role models could yield positive results in terms of getting more women in STEM positions, and it could also be an effective measure in balancing out the gender gap. And because we believe further steps need to be taken, today we’re pleased to announce our partnership with MentorNet, a national non-profit  that provides all STEM students with access to high-quality mentoring experiences by connecting them with professionals in their field. Using an online social networking platform, students can build relationships with mentors, connecting across generational, gender, racial, cultural, and socio-economic boundaries.

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