More women and more diversity are needed in STEM to inspire future generations to see their own future in tech roles, according to the Women Tech Network.
Recruit Ireland spoke with Cork woman and UCC graduate, Suzanne Rice on the importance of women in tech roles as well as what needs to be done for its growth. Suzanne is a Global Business Operations Leader with Facebook and was also named ‘Woman of Influence’ by Silicon Valley Business Journal.
According to Suzanne, early exposure within the educational system is key for the growth of female roles within the tech industry.
“The exposure of girls in early education to tech is critically important,” she said. “As we see that increasing we’ll see an increase in women entering tech. But that exposure, studies have shown, has to be between the ages of eight and twelve. If you don’t get girls interested in technology at that point you tend to lose them.”
From that early education point onto university, allowing the broad spectrum of technical-based classes to be taken and an option for a combination is essential.
“Very often we see someone who is not interested in sciences, so they go down the non-tech path. We take all students and we segregate them into two different paths and that’s something we need to change and continue to provide entry points into tech.”
“As companies hire, they need to ensure they have the broadest slate of applicants possible. Hiring managers can sometimes get hung up on the idea of wanting to hire someone who has an engineering degree for a specific job. What we don’t tend to think about is that there are probably other people that could do the job that don’t have that specific education basis, how do we give them that opportunity?”.
Suzanne says that systematically this has to be fixed, which can be done if children are exposed to such STEM subjects at an early age, through to university, right through to employment where technology can be incorporated into someone’s working life. “At each point or each juncture through this life cycle there are points at which you can adjust it and look at it from a different lens, that will actually make it better.”
Is our education system equipped for promoting females to tech roles
Speaking of her daughter, Suzanne is grateful that in California she was exposed to tech subjects even though she was a “non-tech” kid. “Coming through the education system here she got that exposure.”
Using an example of promoting STEM amongst young people she spoke about GLAM, Girls Leadership Academy Meetup. Suzanne works with girls ages 8-12 who have their own startups. “Exposure- that’s how we’re going to change it, that’s how we’re going to make it different, by just changing our mindset. If we’re not consciously doing that, it’s going to be tough to catch up.”
The importance of females in tech roles
“We need to have a balanced view in these companies and this comes from the number of female employees, all the way through to who’s on the board and making sure that we have equal representation,” said Suzanne.
Recent laws have been passed in California to say that fifty percent of board members have to be female. ““It takes legislation to actually drive female representation on boards.”
Along with legislative support, corporate support is needed too.
“Even if the government is not telling us to, we should be watching the number of the gender split within our companies, looking at ‘early in career’ people, what’s happening when they come into the workforce, how they’re evolving, what path they’re taking, and so forth.”
For Suzanne, it’s a numbers game: “If we don’t understand the numbers, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to manage.”
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what type of diversity it is, all diversity is incredibly important and that’s what makes companies and society successful.”