On a sunny Thursday afternoon, FTI Consulting hosted a panel of women in various fields to discuss obstacles, possibilties and importance of filling the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Together at the FTI Consulting Brussels office, the group moderated by Cheryl Miller is Founder and Executive Director of the Digital Leadership Institute, talked about what it was like being a woman in STEM, initiatives to get more women in the field, and the joys of their work. It was an informative and interactive way to get women and men thinking of the problems with the gender gap in STEM and the solutions to fix those problems, followed by an ice cream social.
Throughout the panel, one of the reoccurring topics was why women were shying away from STEM fields. Josephine Wood, political advisor to the S&D group in the European Parliament, shared that her team discovered three key reasons behind it. Firstly, women are told at a very young age that STEM is for men. Secondly, STEM careers have a negative stigma of being “uncool” in the teen years, and thirdly, women who graduate from University with a STEM degree often quit their first tech-related job because they felt uncomfortable or dismissed in this male ‘overrepresented’ sector. Nevertheless, we were happy to hear that there are EU and national initiatives in place as mentioned by our speaker from DigitalEurope, Giusy Cannella when talking about the @eskills4jobs campaigns and specifically about the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs action.
The panel agreed- and each took a turn sharing her experiences and ideas on how we as a society can overcome these three hurdles. The situation of STEM women in Asia and Europe is different but the common thing that none of them is ideal and needs to be improved. Although each had different experiences, it was clear that one of the major solutions is to provide role models in leadership positions for women to follow. As highlighted by panellist and Rails Girls co-founder, Oana Sipos, it is essential for women to see those women at events and encourage their participation. Additionally, another initiative is represented by the IT clubs for women and an excellent example was highlighted by panellist Aniqa Binte Alam from the Asian University for Women who is the President of the IT Club there.
While there is still much work to be done in closing the gender gap, it is inspiring to see these women going out into the world and making a difference for all women. Thank you ladies for showing us that we can make a difference in encouraging woman to go beyond the stereotypes.
Larisa Pircalabelu is Senior Consultant at FTI Consulting and Aniqa Binte is student from the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh