The gender gap in the UK STEM industry does mean that women are often the minority in their workplaces which can of course come with its challenges – but what work environment doesn’t have a challenge or two to navigate? I have learnt to embrace this as an opportunity and encourage other women to do so as well. The UK currently has a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills shortage which is predicted to worsen in the coming years, so if we can build confidence in girls from a young age and give them the tools to succeed, we can set them up for a future to work in industries that will shape the world. This is something I truly believe in which is why I got involved in the Vodafone Foundation’s first-ever Digital Creators’ Challenge. It’s a programme that invites students ages 11-14 from all over the UK to improve their understanding of tech and build their digital skills for the future by working together to design an app. I encourage as many young women as possible to get involved in this and get excited about their futures in tech!
Here are some learnings I picked up during my career as a woman in tech that I hope can ease any concerns young women might have in pursuing a STEM future.
Find a mentor
When things get tough at work, sometimes you just need someone to speak it through with and offer some guidance. Having someone senior to you, who you look up to and trust, is invaluable. Their seniority also means they have probably gone through what you are experiencing or seen it happen before. Listen to them and get their outsider perspective – they may see something you can’t or provide direction you hadn’t thought of.
Be your best – and show it
When it comes to the workplace, action speaks louder than words. Go the extra mile to train yourself and make yourself invaluable to your team. No one can take away from a person’s strong results or trump someone’s passion for being the best they can be.
Don’t make assumptions
If you are facing problems in your STEM workplace, don’t immediately assume it’s because you are a woman (but don’t rule it out either!)
Although we may encounter unique obstacles as women in tech, some of the battles we have are shared with the men in our workplace. Speak up (don’t be shy!) and talk through your issues with your male colleagues to help bring more perspective to the situation and potentially connect over your shared experiences.
Mind the (gender) gap
Women need to support each other. I have always supported the females around me and helped them to progress because it’s the way we will close the gender gap and stop being the minority in STEM careers. This should start at school! Support other young women in STEM subjects, and one day, the world will be ours!
Vodafone Digital Creator’s Challenge
The Vodafone Digital Creator’s Challenge, presented in partnership with Teach First, Hopscotch and Apps for Good, will run between September 2019 and January 2020, and invite young people to work together to design an app to improve lives in their local community, with the chance to win up to £6,000 to spend on IT equipment.
This piece was written by Maria Raga, CEO of Depop.