Last month, I was at the national First Lego League Finals in Bristol where kids are challenged to think like scientists and engineers. The event organised by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) was great, congrats to their whole team.
During International Women’s Day I am reflecting on what I took away from that event, which was the number of young ladies showcasing both their enthusiasm and knowledge of engineering, science and tech. It’s hard to know at a glance how many young ladies made the final teams but it certainly felt close to 50%.
This experience is backed up by what I see with our education partner Apps for Good – again their programmes routinely get close to 50% female participation.
Anyone who works in this field will know that this is a bit nirvana. Close to 50% girls in engineering or tech fields?! Wow!
I’m confident that girls don’t dislike STEM subjects.
However, in my role supporting our Future Talent programme, and encouraging young females into STEM as part of our commitment to ensuring an inclusive industry, I visit a lot of classrooms to talk to students. I find, particularly in all girls schools, that so many bright young ladies tell me they want to be a doctor, occasionally a dentist, a physio, medical researcher etc. The number of girls opting for medical careers shows that they want to make a difference. The fact that the schools strike for climate change was initiated by a young woman speaks to the same point.
It seems that a role in tech can be easily dismissed by young female students. We recently hosted some year 9/10 pupils as part of the SheCanBe Lord Mayor’s programme. They felt they were too “creative” for a career in tech. “I’m doing Dance, Art and Music as my options.” “I’d never get a job here.” Yet, music is one of the biggest revenue generators for the tech industry. In fact, technology has completely revolutionised the whole music business. And let’s not forget TikTok with their mission to harness the world’s creativity and knowledge.
I hear the word ‘boring’ a lot applied to our industry. I hear students talk about careers that are meaningful and fun that they can be passionate about. Well, tech certainly hits the spot.
Perhaps we need to move away from talking about working in tech or engineering. Perhaps we need to focus on the skills, interests and attributes that young women can bring to change society and solve problems. If they see technology and engineering careers as the key to that, then perhaps nirvana awaits after all!