Women in STEM Conference

Last week I had the opportunity of attending the Women in STEM Conference 2018, which took place in London. It was a big event, with over 150 attendees (disappointingly, only a handful of male representatives) from a range of sectors, including education and industry. It was a very full day, with 12 speakers who gave interesting insights into the different approaches and initiatives being implemented across the country in order to attract more young females into STEM careers.

Some of the inspiring speakers were:

Kirsten Bodley, Chief Executive, Women’s Engineering Society (WES)

Sarah Hedley, UK National Skills Lead, Microsoft

Dr. Kirsty Clode, Chair, Women into Manufacturing and Engineering

Amelia Gould, Head of Engineering, Naval Ships Combat Team, BAE Systems

Most of the above women had an incredible wealth of experience in the engineering sector, having worked for organisations, such as KPMG and BP, and the Royal Navy. The event had a strong focus on Engineering, but the importance of digital skills and careers in Computing was also at the forefront.

Sarah Hedley, from Microsoft, pointed out that research suggested that young girls start losing interest in Computing at around 11 -12 years of age, leaving a relatively short window for educators/parents to encourage and attract girls into STEM. It was interesting to discover that Microsoft has also developed a Microsoft Apprenticeship Programme, which is fully compliant with English and Scottish Apprenticeship standards, and each programme includes a core Microsoft Certification path.

Some other interesting facts were:

  • 84% of women in STEM jobs are happy/very happy in their job.
  • There is an increase in demand in the STEM sector for soft skills (self-confidence, interview skills, networking…)
  • In order to attract more girls, University College London decided in 2014 to drop Maths and Physics as requirements to access Civil Engineering. Since then, uptake by girls has increased from 21% to 29%.
  • Girls are more motivated to take STEM subjects if they can see how they engage with global issues. Also, girls are put off by indifferent Science teachers.
  • The role of a ‘Data Scientist’ is now the third most sought after job role in IT, just behind IT Business Analyst (two variants).
  • The linguistics of STEM job adverts has an impact on the number of female applicants. Research has found that job adverts written by women attract more female applicants. When these are written by men, the number of female applications is very often zero.

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