I recently took part on a panel discussion at Simon Fraser University's BCNET conference discussing ideas and thoughts on how to attract and retain more women in information technology fields (IT). With me there were three other fabulous women who are veterans in the industry. We all had the same goal: to shed a light on women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry.
During our panel discussion, it was evident that gender inequality is not something new, although regardless of progress, women continue to be unrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions in Canada. It was good to see that men were interested in this topic as well, since many felt that they were also affected by this issues. Some have daughters that show an interest in STEM and some wish their daughters/sisters were given more opportunities earlier while in the traditional school system.
We need to start focusing on investing in the education of the next generation of women. Times change and so do behaviours. People from our generation feel as though they have the responsibility to change how opportunities are presented and make sure that fairness is given to all that follow. In order to make strategic decisions for improvement, we must base our decision making on studies that were done reflecting the low numbers of women represented in the work force, particularly STEM-based industries. Let's not forget about the women pioneers who have made a difference in everyone's lives with their contribution in STEM.
In order to change the way girls see themselves, there are three main points that we can start with:
- The language used in textbooks needs to be given consideration to being changed to gender neutral language to represent the women in this industry.
- To facilitate the increase of the visibility of women in the general culture.
- More women from the STEM industry to be profiled in the media.
We can argue that although efforts were made in the past decades to allow more women in STEM, the language used, cultural factors, and the way media looked at these women has remained the same. It cannot be stressed enough that institutions need to shine a spotlight on providing room for young girls to be innovative in the classrooms at an early age. How can we do it? By exposing girls to innovative experiences and by encouraging them to take on challenges that do not have gender bias, and by supporting them through open discussions about why women do not have equal opportunities. We must make girls realize that it is not necessarily their fault, but it is a societal issue.
Having all these answers, I knew that I was on the right track with my next venture! hEr VOLUTION is a non-profit agency based in Toronto and focuses on giving opportunities and sparking interest in STEM education for girls. With fun and interactive training, the hope is to one day lead more women into future employment in the STEM industry. in order to lead them into future employment in the STEM industry.
The agency has teamed upEnable Education, Microsoft Canada, People and Code and Good Wally who have the same vision: to see more women in STEM. The goal for all involved is, through these series of workshops and lectures is to spark an interest.
Workshops led by professionals and innovators in their field will involve students in hands-on learning which is innovative with the scope to motivate young women to consider STEM as an exciting educational and/or career option. The exciting part is that many workshops and lectures are based on their familiar environment to make it for a friendly and welcoming experience. Starting with Famous Women in STEM, Electronics, The Science of Art, Forensics, Robots, Music, Science of Cooking are just a few subjects that will be tackled. The key objective is to inspire more women to become future scientists to make a difference in our everyday lives in the environment which is familiar.
It starts with something small and unexpected that will eventually form into something bigger soaring to endless possibilities.