Although girls are achieving top grades in science and maths at GCSE, more still needs to be done to encourage the uptake of STEM subjects at A-level, through university and into the workplace. Sarah Kaiser, head of diversity & inclusion at Fujitsu, offers her perspectives on how business can help make STEM careers more attractive.
How do you anticipate the future skills workforce changing when it comes to STEM?
New emerging technologies are fundamentally changing the way we work and engage with businesses. The UK’s new industrial strategy puts technology and particularly AI at the heart of its success and we are already seeing a number of new and exciting innovations stem from its use.
As we see automation in the workplace increase, the future will see employers place even more value on creativity, problem solving and innovation”
British companies are at the head of the pack for driving innovation in this space, with AI having the potential to be truly transformative, empowering businesses and enabling people to thrive in a digital world.
As we see automation in the workplace increase, the future will see employers place even more value on creativity, problem solving and innovation when looking for future talent.
Despite digitalisation, we will not only need people with technical skills, but also people with empathy and creativity who can bring to the table skills and values only humans have.
Why are girls deterred from studying science at higher level?
Despite the common belief, this isn’t a universal phenomenon. In fact, girls are predominantly deterred from pursuing careers in STEM in western countries.
This is a real shame because a career in science can be really creative, rewarding and with an ever-increasing skills gap, we desperately need more people pursuing a career in this area.
We need to recognise that old-fashioned biases are still built into too many organisations and jobs”
There are two reasons for a shortage of female talent in western and European cultures. Firstly, we need to recognise that old-fashioned biases are still built into too many organisations and jobs, with unconscious bias from society and teachers often steering young girls away from STEM careers by suggesting these are more appropriate for men.
And secondly, STEM careers have long suffered from flawed perception about what working in the field is like.
What are you doing to reach out to more girls?
At Fujitsu, we have both a school engagement and STEM strategy to encourage talent from a wider range of backgrounds – especially girls – to study STEM subjects.
This year, we introduced for the first time Girls Day to encourage more girls into STEM fields – this was originally an annual event in Germany that we decided to expand to the UK and Norway.
For example, the UK Girls Day allowed employees to bring to work their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and younger sisters for a day filled with STEM activities.
Activities included Lego simulation activities to demonstrate how we work in an agile environment and building Pi robots and programming them. This showed young girls how technology careers can be fun and engaging, and helped open new horizons.
I am so proud of the results we achieved, as 95% of the girls who attended said they are more interested in tech after the event!
What can teachers and parents be doing to encourage more participation in STEM subjects/careers?
Parents and teachers should do their best to encourage girls to participate in STEM subjects. Digital technology is penetrating every aspect of our lives and in the near future there will not be a job that isn’t touched by technology. That’s why everyone needs to be comfortable to operate with it and have a basic level of knowledge.
We also need to raise awareness and aspirations when it comes to STEM careers and insist that it’s not merely a “geeky” job, but a fun and rewarding career path.
At a younger age, it is about communicating how, for instance, studying computer science can lead to a career in design – or even technology marketing or management of a business division. And raising the profile of female role models in STEM will be an important step in achieving this.
We need to raise awareness and aspirations when it comes to STEM careers and insist that it’s a fun and rewarding career path, not a ‘geeky’ job”
There are so many great women working in science and technology, and we need to expose and introduce young girls to these incredible trailblazers.
The more exposed they are to real-life stories of women succeeding in STEM careers and following a rewarding, successful and interesting career path, the more likely they are to follow in their footsteps.
What are your top tips for girls, why should they choose science, what benefits can this bring?
Be bold, be absolutely, completely yourself, and make sure you study what really interests you. If you’re interested in how the world works and want to find answers, you should choose science.
We need people in STEM roles to help build the future and create new opportunities”
We need people in STEM roles to help build the future and create new opportunities. In a STEM role, people can get involved in creating the technologies of tomorrow. And not only will they have great fun but they will make a massive impact on the society.