CAO 2020: Women in STEM still a fine balance

CAO 2020: Women in STEM still a fine balance

Ireland's tech giants are continuing to find creative ways to address the gender imbalance in the STEM sector, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Intel are continuing their Women in Technology Scholarships programme, offering €3,000 per annum to successful applicants studying an honours degree in science, technology and engineering. They will also be given intern placements at an Intel campus either in Leixlip, Shannon or Cork. The final element of the scholarship is a mentor assigned to each student to assist with career progression and further education.

In 2011 Dell, Microsoft and Accenture founded a group called Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) with the aim of supporting the development of women in the technology industry.

CAO 2020: Women in STEM still a fine balance

The group now has 19 member companies, including BT Ireland, Dropbox, Eir, Ericsson, EY, Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Intel, Linkedin, New Relic, Twitter, Virgin Media, Vodafone and Xilinx.

They have recently qualified for two-year funding from the latest round of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme.

CWIT is now in collaboration with Dublin City University and the 30% Club on the project which places pre-service primary and secondary STEM teachers in paid internships in technology and pharmaceutical companies over a 12 week period so that they can gain first hand experience of STEM roles and careers in industry.

The funding will be used to pay a full-time project manager and a full-time researcher recruited to evaluate the impact of the programme on the participating teachers. Participants gain hands-on technical experience and also a greater understanding of the soft skills required to work in the field.

Teachers and parents have the greatest influence on career choices and it is hoped that this initiative will help inspire more women to take a STEM career path.

The tech sector has a reputation for being tough on women who want to progress, but Laura Sherbin, co-president of the Center for Talent Innovation has spent ten years studying the phenomenon and has found six strategies to help women in STEM achieve success, regardless of how supportive — or hostile — their company cultures may be.

In her article ‘Six Things Successful Women in STEM Have in Common’, published in the Harvard Business Review, Sherbin defines success as satisfaction with your job, respect for your expertise, and a senior-level position. She says that about a fifth of women currently employed in STEM meet that bar.

  • Confidence: In STEM, women’s confidence has long been undermined due to attitudes that women are less likely to succeed, possibly due to “innate” differences between men and women, so it’s more of a challenge for a woman to feel confident about her ability.
  • Claim credit for your ideas: From her research, Sherbin says as much as 82% of women in STEM say their contributions are ignored; women are consistently spoken over and even robbed of their ideas. She says feeling unheard can be particularly distressing — and disengaging. Too many say nothing but she found that successful women in STEM are more likely to speak up when they’re overlooked.
  • Invest in peer networks: Sherbin’s research found that successful women invest deeply in peer networks. Sherbin states: “They’re more likely than other STEM women to help peers connect to senior leaders, to risk their own reputations to advocate for the ideas and skills of their peers, and to help them recover their reputations after making a mistake. In return, women we surveyed who have achieved success in STEM are more likely to have peers who back their ideas in meetings than other women in STEM, and are more likely to have peers who ensure they receive credit for their ideas.”
  • Build up protégés (Become a mentor): A majority of successful women in STEM report sponsoring someone at their companies. As a result they discovered that it helps them build their own reputations as leaders — and can also help them keep their own skills current and sharp.
  • Be authentic: A woman who’s achieved success in STEM is more likely to bring her authentic self to work. Up to 78% of successful STEM women said they are their authentic selves at work, compared to 58% of other women in STEM.
  • Hone your brand: Successful STEM women speak on panels, sit on boards, and make their credentials or accomplishments known.

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