The short answer is yes. The snag is that it won’t happen overnight and it can’t be enforced simply by law. It will require a collective, sustained effort at different levels and from all the stakeholders.
We need to raise awareness, which means teach the teachers and educate the educators. Both boys and girls should be given the opportunity to explore scientific, technological and mathematical fields in a playful way in their early years. And girls who face difficulties in STEM topics should be given extra support instead of simply redirecting them to less scientific career. Let’s stop taking the easy way out. Girls will benefit from exposure to STEM… just as boys will benefit from exposure to social sciences.
We all need to work on our sometimes unconscious biases. All the way from offering cars to boys and dolls to girls, to assuming that the only female member of an all-male tech team is the assistant, to thinking that a woman doesn’t have leadership skills just because she might exhibit a more inclusive working style or other attributes deemed to be feminine; or to question a female founder about her competences rather than about her business idea - one of my pet peeves.
We need to promote the mentoring of women by both men and women. This is especially crucial in corporations: to prevent women who have entered the tech world to leave early out of frustration and to support those women, who aspire to leadership positions, or those who didn’t even dare thinking about it. But mentorship can also be done on a personal, informal basis. Don’t hesitate to be a mentor to someone if you get a chance. Most enriching experience as far as I am concerned.
We need to foster a healthy life/work balance. Statistics show that in countries where both men and women are encouraged to take parental leave, women’s participation in the workforce and their ability to take on leadership roles is enhanced. This also helps to dismantle the entrenched dichotomy of carers vs. providers, which in the business world way too often translates into women get the job done while men lead. On a side-note, a good life balance is proven to increase work productivity.
So, why is it important to take care of this issue, if you still wonder? Larissa Best, director and co-founder of “Equilibre” brings it to the point: Today technology is all-pervasive and is transforming everything from so-called traditional industries to social enterprises to family life. Can we seriously afford to leave out 50% of the world population?
One last piece of advice for women: Believe in yourselves and be true to yourselves. Don’t try to force yourselves into an alpha-male role, bring in and enforce your own leadership style; or as our very own CTO, Steven Allen phrased it: “Don’t try to be tougher than men, because we men need softening”.
Actually, and I borrow from Steven again, both women and men should be studying S(cience)TE(chnology)A(rts)M(athematics) subjects, rather than plain STEM. Because technology is not an end in itself; it should be meant to help us solve pressing problems and improve mankind’s lives.
Patrizia Luchetta is responsible for the Communication and Public Relations at MasonBower. Patrizia is the former Director of New Technologies & Life Sciences at the Ministry of Economy in Luxembourg and currently an entrepreneur building bridges between music and start-ups, and also serving as an independent board member.