An astonishing 78% of students can’t name a famous female working in technology (PWC research 2021). That doesn’t surprise me. When I started studying Physics at university, I was one of around eight females within a group of nearly 80 undergraduate students. It didn’t leave me feeling very reassured that the world of work would be any different.
There is still a lack of female students in the science department but thankfully, I think this is changing. As I have progressed through my PhD and into the role I have today, I have encountered more talented women in science, maths, engineering and tech (STEM) and it suggests that things are moving in the right direction.
I believe that attracting more females into STEM roles starts at the school level and showing young women what can be achieved is vital for stimulating interest. I have often thought it would have been great to have science workshops specifically for females to get more girls into science.
To stimulate the uptake of science among young women we need more female STEM stars who can act as role models. While I do not consider myself anything close to a luminary, I do feel a responsibility to a younger version of myself who doubted whether they were in the right room at times. To get more women into these industries, we need to see people who look like ‘us’ in leadership roles at big tech companies and driving innovation through STEM.
While I wholeheartedly enjoyed my university years, finding a female ally during this time was key to this. We may have been vastly outnumbered in the lecture theatre, but we few girls pulled together and supported each other and several years later, we have not only done OK, but we are also now thriving!
I would encourage any young women studying STEM subjects today to take all the opportunities that come their way and to put themselves forward, even if it means leaning in. Do not shy away just because the boys shout that little bit louder! One of the best things I did was a summer internship with NATO in Italy, followed by a semester abroad in France. It helped me to expand my horizons and experience new cultures, all of which have benefited me in my career.
Listening to tutors and taking time to get to know your peers, male or female, is also important. Studying STEM is hugely challenging but can be enormously rewarding. Today I’m predicting problems and trying to solve them for a living, and I could not be happier.
I work within a top global data agency with many talented women (and men!) in the field of data analysis. When not predicting and solving very complex data problems for blue-chip clients, I am driving our talent acquisition programme to increase the number of women in tech. My predictive analysis is that we will get there if we keep showing other girls and women what’s possible.