Europe Fintech Latest News Women in Tech

Ada Lovelace Day: Tech’s Most Influential Women Share How to Get Women into STEM

Tuesday 12th October marks Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration championing the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Lovelace, who helped implement visionary insights on computing, leaves a lasting legacy of the importance of female diversity. Yet, despite her achievements, there were one million women in STEM roles in 2020, equating to only 24% of the STEM workforce.

With a cross parliamentary report concluding that bringing women into the STEM workforce is an “economic imperative”, what more can be done to ensure women are encouraged into these fields? Some of the most influential women in the tech sector share their thoughts:

Early encouragement is key

Though she lived two centuries ago, much of the modern tech sector can learn from Lovelace’s legacy. According to Sofia Ceppi, Research Integration Lead at Secondmind, her work reminds us that we should “not see the STEM world as one just for men….Women must be shown the possibilities for them in STEM without bias. Ada’s mother was a mathematician and encouraged Ada to pursue the subject herself. We must remove the imposition of biases that can happen from an early age.” 

Tackling the gender imbalance at its roots is vital, says Daniela da Cruz, Head of Engineering of SAST and Engines at Checkmarx, “Engage girls from a young age, and develop their sense of STEM identity. Positive and early exposure will make the difference and lead us to a future where women in STEM is the norm.”

Learning from role models

Like Lovelace, Julie Lerman, Pluralsight Author and Software Coach points to the important role her mother played as she was growing up – “I was raised with the belief that I could do whatever I wanted. I want to share this attitude…There are many communities and businesses that are welcoming that have a healthy, diverse environment where you are seen and heard, where you are given opportunity to learn and grow.”

Rosie Gallancz, Software Engineer at VMware Pivotal Labs, echoes this, “While I’ve been lucky to have opportunities and role models to help guide me along the way, that’s sadly by no means the case for all women and girls getting into engineering. In my earlier days in the industry, I found previous clients of mine tended to direct questions and presentations to the men in the room. I was lucky to have a strong mentor to put a stop to this behaviour and that has spurred me on to strive for working environments where gender has no bearing on ability to answer technical questions.”

We can’t “forget the importance of role models,” voiced Jen Rodvold, Head of Digital Ethics & Tech for Good at Sopra Steria, “but also all of the thousands of us working in STEM who can help to inspire the next generation, showing that girls and women can thrive in these exciting careers.”

Embracing diverse skillsets and experiences

Still, it was not just Lovelace’s technical intelligence that drove her. Ceppi believes her work proves “the value of different perspectives. Her love of poetry meant Ada embraced her intuition and imagination, using this to challenge assumptions and effectively apply science and mathematical concepts to problems.”

Interestingly, Susan Fazelpoor, COO at Demand Science, argues, “While having an education in STEM can provide some incredible career paths, you do not need it to get involved in tech. This is something I don’t think many people fully realise; therefore, they don’t even try. To help change this perception, it is important that businesses fully communicate to both employees and prospective workers what they can offer…often just having that conversation can make a huge difference to a person’s career.”

“STEM skills can be taught to anyone,” echoed Clair Griffin, Projects Director at Vysiion, recalling her own untraditional route into tech, “Businesses need to expand their hiring reach beyond the usual candidates and take more risks. My first boss employed me as a software engineer even though I had no previous coding experience.”

Fazelpoor continued, “If we all take steps to encourage a diverse set of voices, we will be able to truly take advantage of all the exciting areas of technology that are being developed.”

Challenging stereotypes and changing culture

Nan Craig, Data Analyst at Faethm AI argues “present-day underrepresentation is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues facing women in the STEM industry,” with Faethm data showing while “women currently occupy over 70% of administrative roles…42.5% of the work these roles require is likely to be automated over the next 5 years.” 

Another significant barrier to changing the STEM sector is how entrenched the gender imbalance is. According to Ursula Morgenstern, President, Global Growth Markets at Cognizant, better gender representation “requires a change in the organisation culture and the creation of a sense of belonging where women can become their best selves.”

She continues, “I truly believe that affinity groups are critical in building a diverse workforce and providing support beyond financial aids for childcare. For example, Cognizant’s Women Empowered group comprises approximately 1,142 members from across UK and Ireland and has been pivotal in breaking gender barriers.”

Ultimately, the responsibility for culture change doesn’t lie with women, voiced Kate Gregory, Pluralsight Author and C++ Expert, “I tell young women today that if you find a horrible co-worker or a horrible employment environment, that’s not about you, it’s about them, and better workplaces and co-workers exist. You don’t need to quit tech because of a horrible workplace. They are the ones who are not good enough; you’re terrific.”

The benefits for the whole industry

Welcoming more women into the sector should be a business priority, according to Kat Judd, SVP People & Culture at Lucid, “Businesses have a great opportunity at the moment to help change the narrative around women in tech, and it is important they do not pass it up.” She adds, “The new hybrid way of working is a golden opportunity to encourage women to stay in roles, and help them reach those leadership positions that many may have felt were unattainable in the past.”

Developing fields like AI need women to succeed. “Since AI analyses patterns that are based on historical data,” notes Poornima Ramaswamy, Executive Vice President, Global Solutions and Partners at Qlik, “models can be skewed if they lack demographic categories such as a balanced representation of female data. To avoid gender bias – or any bias, in fact – and develop inclusive solutions, we therefore need to make sure that not only the target audience of a solution is representative, but so, too, are the teams creating them.”

Finally, the UK itself needs the input of women more than ever. “There’s a growing digital skills gap in the country,” says Roisin Wherry, Internal IT & Innovation Manager at Grayce. “So it’s imperative that we encourage as many individuals as possible to follow their aspirations in the STEM sector – especially considering the diverse talent pool the UK has at its disposal.”

Author

Related posts

Klarna Launches ‘Pay Now’ Immediate Payments

Polly Jean Harrison

A Guide to Fintech Lending Licences

Manisha Patel

A Year in Fintech: Funding and Investments Roundup

Claire Woffenden