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International Day of Women & Girls in Science: Sector Response

International Day of Women & Girls in Science is an international observance day that recognizes the critical role of women and girls in science and technology.

It is celebrated annually on 11 February to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.

This day aims to promote and encourage the access of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, and to promote their equal participation in the scientific and technological community.

It also aims to recognize the achievements of women in science and to promote gender equality in the scientific and technology community.

Why is celebrating What is International Day of Women & Girls in Science so important?

Celebrating International Day of Women & Girls in Science is important because it helps to raise awareness about the need for gender parity in science and technology. It is also a day to recognize the valuable contributions that women and girls have made and continue to make in the fields of science and technology.

This day helps to inspire more girls and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). By encouraging more women and girls to pursue STEM-related careers, we can help create a more diverse, dynamic, and vibrant workforce in these fields.

Ultimately, the goal is to foster a more equitable and inclusive scientific community that can help to drive progress and innovation.

Sector Response

Sarah Friswell, CEO at Red Ant:

“For all the years we leaders invest in honing our business and technology skills, putting women at the centre of a business strategy doesn’t sound like the hardest objective. Yet it’s managing to stump hundreds and thousands of CEOs and senior managers throughout STEM organisations; perhaps holding their businesses – and innovation – back as a result. 

“Yes, change is happening, but slowly. The numbers tell us that girls are overlooking and are being overlooked to study STEM subjects and degrees. According toUCAS,35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women, and only 19% of students studying engineering and technology degrees are female. The truth is that so many women unexpectedly find themselves in technology careers that they hadn’t realised were perfect for them. 

“We need all students to understand what science and technology careers really involve to change outdated perceptions and motivate more girls to join us. It’s essential for our smart cities of the future and for critical advances in medicine. At the end of the day, science and technology is problem solving and it’s fun, that’s why 59% of Red Ant’s team is female and how we know that women love working in tech.

“As a female CEO and a founding member of UK Chief, the private membership network for women executive leaders, I believe that we can only claim real progress is being made in this area when: 

  • More women in STEM careers share their experiences to show what’s possible 
  • More businesses connect with their local schools, offering workshops to inspire students 
  • and more leaders design working experiences that work for women, which means true flexibility and progression 

“So, hands up if your business both connects at a school level and drives inclusion and diversity programmes from CEO level? These will be the gamechangers.” 

Sarah Gilchriest

Sarah Gilchriest, President at Circus Street, said: 

“Despite receiving a lot of attention in recent years, the gender gap in STEM subjects remains high. Only around 35% of graduates are women – a figure that has remained largely unchanged for the past five years. When you break it down to subjects such as computer science and engineering and technology the statistics are even worse – 16% of graduates are women. The UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is the perfect time for us to reflect on why there is such underrepresentation and consider how we can do more to redress the balance. What is clear is that the current approach isn’t working. 

“The lack of women taking on STEM subjects is cited as the number one reason there is such a gender imbalance in the UK’s tech industry. Only one in four people who work in the startup scene are women, with the number of female tech CEOs and founders depressingly low. There is an element of chicken and egg. How can young women and other underrepresented groups see themselves pursuing careers in tech or engineering if these industries look overwhelmingly male and white? On the other hand, how can we address diversity issues if there aren’t enough qualified people?

“The reality is that we all make incredibly important career choices, usually without realising it, at a very young age when we choose what subjects to study in school. In fact, the factors that influence our choices are often engrained at an even earlier age. However, blaming the education system isn’t going to solve the problem nor is it the full story. There is actually a lot more businesses can do to improve diversity and consequently encourage women and other underrepresented groups to study STEM subjects with a view to working in the tech industry. A major way this can be achieved is through a nationwide upskilling scheme.

“Upskilling offers people a second chance to develop their career in the direction they want without the cost and impracticality of going back into full time education. 

“People can be guilty of thinking of upskilling as simply learning a new trade. It’s not just that – it’s about giving people the skill sets, mindsets and behaviours that they need to develop a huge range of skills applicable to different circumstances. It’s a continuous and nuanced process. We aren’t necessarily talking about training legions of fully-fledged data scientists, for example, we’re saying that we need to give everybody basic data skills so they can apply this knowledge to their own professional circumstances. These individuals may go on to learn coding, marketing or IT skills that combine to make them a highly skilled worker in their field. 

“In essence, through upskilling, individuals can replicate the core skills businesses look for from STEM graduates. If we applied upskilling nationwide via businesses we would give everybody an opportunity to develop into the careers they want. It will inevitably mean more women and other underrepresented groups will be able to get into the tech industry. If young students see people that look and sound like them in the tech industry they will be more likely to consider it a real option and choose subjects to meet that ambition.”

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