STEM Women: One of our society’s most important challenges
22 de March de 2021
22 de March de 2021
By 2030, more than 80% of jobs will require people with STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills and one million STEM-related jobs will be created in the next five years.
These numbers add to the 10% of vacancies linked to these careers that go unfilled each year due to a lack of specialised profiles.
Countless studies have demonstrated the crucial role that STEM careers have in the future of employability. Therefore, increasing women participation in these areas is one of the most important challenges that our society has to face nowadays.
Currently, the percentage of women employed in this sector is less than 30% worldwide. Companies are aware of the female talent value, but struggle to find it. While women represent the majority of students in university classrooms, only 25 % of them pursue this type of career.
Neither companies, nor the economy, nor society in general can afford to have women not fully represented in the sector that will have the greatest impact on our lives and that will generate the greatest opportunities in the coming years. The UN is well aware of this and, in the last decade, has created the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11th) and the International Girls in ICT Day (April 26th) to highlight the crucial role of women in STEM.
On this occasion, we spoke with Teresa Ramos, graduated in Physical Sciences, Master in Telecommunications, MBA in Business Administration and Director of the Master in Big Data and Analytics at EAE , and with María José García López, PHD in Economic Sciences and also in Forestry and author of a recent study on Employment and Gender in Emerging Sectors that offered very significant findings.
Teresa Ramos: I studied Physical Sciences, specializing in theoretical physics, and I did it because I was into science and mathematics.
María José García: I studied Economics and Business Administration at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid out of passion. I’d always been attracted to the world of stock market and corporate finance and I wanted to broaden my knowledge.
M.J. Gª: I’ve always admired women who have reached high positions of responsibility in organizations, although some of them don’t have as much visibility as men. There are also important men who have served me as a role model and have motivated me to go far.
T.R: : I was very influenced by the fact that my father was a science and mathematics teacher and that he played with me, explaining concepts related to his career in such a way that it became a fun thing to do. For me they were, and still are, a game and a way of having fun. As a math and science teacher, he made no distinction between boys and girls when teaching them.
T. A: As a society, we cannot afford to lose 50% of the talent (assuming 50 % of the population are women). It is important that girls have role models in the STEM field and that we start sharing an empowerment message from an early age.
M.J. Gª: Two years ago, I conducted a study on employment in emerging sectors and gender and something that we hadn’t considered at the time came to light. At that age, around 6 years old, boys play video games and this familiarises them with technology, while girls prefer other types of more didactic games and develop other skills which, logically, distance them from the technological environment.
M.J. Gª: : Yes, I think the obstacles are the same. In the classrooms —where, in careers such as Business Administration, the number of women is slightly higher than men—, it’s not as marked as it is in the social development of women in the workplace. Although the glass ceiling is becoming less limiting —in part because of legislative efforts to dissipate it—, it still exists.
T.R: I think it’s all about a change of mindset in society — women are as good as men at STEM subjects.
T.R: The biggest challenge has been the lack of female role models who work in technology. About women professionals in these sectors, I would highlight their passion for it and their determination to continue working in an area that is not particularly friendly to them.
M.J. Gª: The main challenge I’ve faced has been the need to work harder, to prove myself more or to feel more challenged for being a woman. Fortunately, years have passed since my first professional steps and today I see a much more egalitarian and less gender-biased movement.
T. R: Curiosity, organisation, analytical mind, creativity... And as for soft skills: capacity for simplification, synthesis and communication. Creativity is vital in the STEM area.
M.J. Gª: The best opportunities in the job market will be in the areas of finance and data processing. We talk a lot about Big Data, but we know little about it. Big data must be managed, interpreted, summarized and studied to favour decision-making. And, in this sense, the finance sector is taking a turn towards the different applications of Big Data. The new opportunities derived from Blockchain, Fintech, Insurtech… The new products adjusted to the client's profile... Everything originates from the study and application of STEM knowledge.
M.J. Gª In my opinion, sectors related to technologies, the green economy and healthcare will be key in the coming years as generators of employment.The accelerated development of technology and digitalization will not necessarily deteriorate the job expectations of the professionals of the future, quite the contrary. Of course, new jobs will emerge that we can’t yet imagine today. The same happens in the field of finance. The green economy, linked to a different way of doing things, will require professionals who adapt existing processes to a more sustainable business environment, without losing sight of optimal business profitability and the new capital instruments available to achieve it.
T.R: I believe that having the relevant and necessary data to be able to make adequate decisions is critical in all professions and, therefore, it is essential to have a solid knowledge in order to be able to analyze data and draw conclusions that serve to make correct decisions in business. In fact, that has always been the case, with the difference that the quantity and quality of the data has never been as high as it is today.
M.J. Gª: : Honestly, in the field we are talking about and, leaving aside the visual arts, no. Data management is the oil of the decade and it is important to bear in mind that talent and training quality are not improvised and that, the more education we receive, the more we will improve our employability at a time when the labor market is in full transformation. In fact, it is expected that each person will have an average of 2.7 jobs in his or her lifetime.
T. R: Do not hesitate to enter this world. Nowadays training in technology, data science, big data and finance is available to everyone. Start with education and inform yourself.
M.J.Gª: I would recommend them start going to events related to the world of tech and finance, such as those organized by “Women in Technology”, where they will meet other women with the same purpose and ambitions as them and where they won’t need to have any previous knowledge or know how to program to become part of a community that ranges from Bio developments to finances or education.
We start with data, and with data we finish: 85 % of the jobs that will be offered in 2030 do not yet exist and, therefore, there are no references, no stereotypes or prejudices. We have an open road ahead of us towards a future in which we can be whatever we want.
What are we waiting for in order to take the first step?