The Gender Agenda: STEMing the gap research

Girls interested in STEM, but UK still only using ‘half of nation’s brains’

  • Seven in ten girls interested in a STEM career
  • But importance of apprenticeships as a viable route into a STEM career still heavily underappreciated
  • One in five female university students didn’t pursue career in STEM because they didn’t know how to get a job in the sector
  • Over a third of women in STEM jobs have considered leaving the sector

Recent research from Adecco Group UK & Ireland has revealed fresh insight into the difficulties employers, educators and policy-makers face in encouraging girls and women to pursue an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

The Gender Agenda: STEMing the gap’ research, commissioned by leading recruitment organisation Adecco Group UK & Ireland, follows recent reports that there are still too few women entering and remaining in engineering, manufacturing and IT despite efforts to improve the gender balance in these fields. 3,000 school children, university students and STEM employees in the UK and Ireland were surveyed.

Download the report:

6 Ways To Get Women Into Leadership Positions And Keep Them There

By Cynthia Stuckey, Fast Company, Strong Female Lead.

Women make up about half of the workforce in the U.S. Yet despite the clear value of having a diverse workforce, like improved operational and financial performance, increased innovation, and enhanced company reputation, organizations are still struggling to attract and retain women in leadership roles.

It’s not easy developing strategies that encourage women to climb the corporate ladder. As a case in point, when Apple and Facebook recently announced they were offering egg freezing as a benefit, some claimed the offer was merely a PR stunt. Others criticized the move as a strategy to put motherhood on hold rather than create a work environment that accommodates women's reproductive years.

Egg freezing aside, there are some truly innovative ways to attract, retain, and develop women in leadership at all levels. Here are six strategies at the forefront of this movement:

1. Reverse Mentoring

IBM currently pairs top leaders (often male) with female mentors who have been identified as future leaders. The mentor/mentee meet regularly, each learning from the other. Reverse mentoring, also called reciprocal mentoring, is an outstanding example of how to create visibility of up-and-coming female leaders to top executives, as well as expose female leaders to the most strategic work at the company. While the method is informal, it helps break down some of the unconscious bias, while creating visibility for female talent whom the male leaders might not otherwise interact with.

2. Encouraging Self Care

Multinational oil company Chevron offers full-fitness and self-care facilities onsite at their global locations. Employees have the opportunity to take care of themselves by working out during the day and getting massages or facials without having to leave their worksite. This enables women to find balance and stay healthy.

3. The Buddy System

Deloitte makes diversity and gender equality an important aspect of training. The company matches senior leaders (mostly male) to rising female talent for one to two years. The objectives are to build confidence, create visibility of talent internally, and provide access to stretch assignments. What makes Deloitte’s program successful is that the company measures the results of the coaching efforts and holds each coach accountable for the success of his assigned leader in developing new capabilities and expansions of networks. The results are then directly tied to the coach’s performance review and compensation.

4. Flexible Work Schedules

Global health care company Roche has a unique flexible work program, offering employees 12 days of remote work per quarter, which comes to 48 days a year. If an employee needs to stay home to be with kids or sick parents or to focus on a specific project, the company trusts that they will still get their work done.

5. Transparent And Collaborative Career Mapping

One multinational oil company maps careers out for its employees after their first year at the company, and the career direction is adjusted yearly. Development plans, stretch assignments, promotions, and networking opportunities are equal for men and women who have been rated with similar capabilities. This structure removes the chances of women not being aware of opportunities for their development at higher levels, and it creates visibility to top leadership. Since this development program starts when they are hired, women are an equal partner in opting in or out for additional advancement for their career track. Annual reviews are used by the Talent Development team to ensure women are recognized by leadership and for selection in highly visible programs.

6. Unique Family Support

Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly offers after school programs beyond day care so children can attend science camps, math sessions, and other activities in the evening. These innovative programs enable employees with families to retain demanding positions without the worry of leaving children at home, which helps to reduce the choice women often must make between family and work. As women continue their upward trajectory in business, they have yet to be fully appreciated for the unique qualities and abilities they bring to the workplace. To keep women in the workplace, companies must continue to evolve their employee benefits to meet their needs.

Whether these benefits are family focused or offer more leadership opportunities, executives can no longer expect women to give up everything for their career. Concessions must be made to retain women in the workplace.

Cynthia Stuckey is Managing Director at the Forum Corporation, a premiere learning organization, where she provides strategic and operational leadership for all aspects of the company’s business in the Asia Pacific region. As a practitioner, consultant, and senior leader, Cynthia is a respected expert in the areas of international business, corporate transformations, strategy development, and execution of performance enhancement strategies.


Sorting Is Boring: Computer Science Education Needs to Join the Real World

Jessie Duan Student, Stanford University

Every April, we at Girls Teaching Girls To Code hold a day-long event called Code Camp to introduce 200+ high school girls in the San Francisco Bay Area to computer science. Throughout the day, 40 women in computer science from Stanford University expose students to their first programming language, help them use their new skills on cool projects, and inspire girls to the wide array of careers in computer science.

This past year, one of the concepts we wanted to teach was sorting. Sorting is widely studied in computer science because it's used everywhere, from putting your Facebook timeline in chronological order to reordering your Amazon search results by price. Quickly sorting a long list of items is difficult, so a lot of research has been done on sorting a list efficiently.

To introduce this concept, we devised a team activity for part of the day, during which girls acted out the most common sorting methods. As the organizers, we thought it was awesome -- the girls were learning a core CS concept in an interactive way.

But the girls? They hated it. Sixty-two out of 210 students said that 30 minute session was their least favorite part of the entire day.

We were shocked. It seemed so fun! The girls were outside and interacting with each other. What was there not to like? But after diving into the girls' feedback for the event, we saw many versions of "I don't get the point," "It was boring," and "This doesn't seem important."

It finally made sense. As computer science students, we know why sorting is important because we see it being used everywhere. But from the girls' perspective, we were just saying, "Here is a bunch of ways to sort a list." So of course for them, sorting was boring.

The thing is, the majority of computer science classes teach not only sorting but also every other concept in computer science in exactly this way -- by presenting various algorithms, explaining how they work, and expecting students to enjoy it. Introductory computer science education at universities tends to emphasize the technical aspects of programming, such as speed and efficiency. Assignments ask students to print out prime numbers or determine if a word is an anagram -- certainly interesting and difficult, but not particularly useful. Only several semesters later do students study the interdisciplinary, real-world applications that motivated many of them to learn computer science at all.

This structure causes many students to give up on computer science early on -- a problem that disproportionately affects women. Jane Margolis, a leading researcher in gender equity in computer science, explains in Unlocking the Clubhouse that women tend to be more interested in the applications of a computer, whereas men tend to be more interested in the computer for the computer's sake. Women link their interest in computing to other disciplines at fice times the rate that men do. Although there are many reasons for why women abandon studies in computer science, the design of most computer science classes is a major factor in why only 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees in America go to women.

After all, at its core, programming is part of a toolkit -- to reconstruct excavated Greek art, provide a quality education to all, and rescue human trafficking victims. It belongs in the same toolbox as English, used to communicate with classmates and colleagues; and math, used to make estimates and examine problems quantitatively.

There are people who love math for math's sake and devote themselves to proving 1 + 1 = 2. There are more people, however, who enjoy using math to prescribe medication and build skyscrapers. In elementary school, we use word problems to show why it's useful to add fractions (ever want to split that blueberry pie?) or find the perimeter of a square. We wait until college, when math majors choose to devote four years towards pure math, to finally set aside the word problems and focus on theory. We do so because math is a valuable skill that is used in so many different professions and contexts, and we don't want kids to give up on math because they don't think it's useful.

So, why does computer science start with theory and end with word problems?

We need to spark an interest in computer science using students' passions. Let's teach introductory programming by demonstrating its incredible potential for impact. Let's teach sorting algorithms from the perspective that they're used everywhere, not just because they're supposed to be in the curriculum. Let's make sure that starting day one, they see what they can achieve using computer science and are excited to come back for the next class.

Computer science is a tool -- and if we want to attract people who intend to use it that way, we need to start teaching it that way from the beginning.

Original post available is here

Why We Need More Tech Talent to Digitize the World

Tae Yoo Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Cisco

Digitization. This topic was top of mind for many of the 2,500 world business and government leaders at the recent World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Digitization is the full-scale adoption of computer- and Internet-enabled technologies by consumers, businesses and governments; it is important because it can grow economies and create jobs.

In fact, according to the 2013 Global Information Technology Report, adoption of such information and communication technologies (ICT) provided a $193 billion boost to world economic output and created 6 million jobs in 2011. And, each new ICT position led to two or more jobs in other sectors in the Philippines and 2.4 jobs in South America.

In the past, when we thought of Internet connectivity, we thought about devices -- smartphones, computers, tablets. But today we can connect people, processes, data and things to the Internet - and completely re-engineer every aspect of our lives. At Cisco we call this the Internet of Everything, and it is allowing innovative thinkers to come up with better, smarter and less expensive ways to do things. It is helping to save money, conserve resources and improve the way we do business, educate children and provide health care.

For example, in Barcelona, Spain, a fiber-optic network is supporting projects that run on smart technology, like remote irrigation control for the city's green spaces. So far, this includes 77 remote-controlled fountains and two networks that provide hot water in 64 buildings. Barcelona's vice mayor, Antoni Vives, reported in January 2014 that the city is saving $58 million annually using smart water technology.

Clearly, there is great potential in a fully digitized world. But one thing stands in the way: We don't have enough people with the skills to manage the growing number of Internet connections.

Networking technology is at the heart of the Internet, connecting devices and local networks with the global public Internet. Planning, designing, building, managing and supporting IP networks all require dedicated networking skills.

To gauge the supply and demand of people with such skills, Cisco partnered with the research firm IDC to analyze the networking talent pool of 29 emerging market countries, from China to Brazil to Saudi Arabia. What we found was alarming. There is a shortage of at least 1.2 million people skilled in Internet protocol (IP) networking. And that is just in the 29 countries surveyed.

Countries with an unbalanced supply and demand of networking professionals will miss out on an opportunity to grow their economies. Their business sector will be unable to capitalize on the market shift presented by the Internet of Everything, which we estimate holds $19 trillion in value for the public and private sectors worldwide over the next 10 years.

Why is there such a shortage of skilled networking professionals? And more importantly, how do we fix it? Seventy-five million young people are unemployed worldwide. If we can inspire some of them to train in networking technology, we can put more people back to work while filling a demand for our governments and businesses.

First, we need training programs targeted to job needs. Partnerships between public agencies and private companies can help. The US Telecommunications Training Institute is one example -- it offers tuition-free training in 84 courses, including Internet technology, cybersecurity and rural connectivity through funding contributions from various U.S. government agencies and corporate members. From 1983 to 2014, over 1,940 courses have been taught to 9,076 participants from 171 developing countries.

The Cisco Networking Academy program is another example - in partnership with colleges, universities and other institutions, we have trained 5.5 million students in networking technology worldwide since 1997. Networking Academy curriculum can supplement computer science and technology courses in schools and help students develop the specific skills employers demand. From 2005 to 2013, more than 1.2 million students found jobs thanks to the program.

Second, we must mentor young people and support them on a path toward technology and networking careers. Women in particular can benefit from positive role models. According to Million Women Mentors, women comprise more than 20 percent of engineering school graduates, yet only 11 percent of practicing engineers are women. The lack of female role models may contribute to women dropping out of technology fields of study and careers. The US2020 initiative aims to match 1 million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentors with students to increase awareness of STEM education and careers, especially among girls, underrepresented minorities and low-income children. TechBridge, a nonprofit that offers an after-school STEM program for girls, offers an online toolkit to help potential role models engage girls and underrepresented youth in STEM through readings, videos, questions and more. As more technology professionals devote more time to mentoring, they will sow the seeds of a future workforce capable of using Internet connections to change the world.

The outlook for digitizing the world is strong if we act together and act now. We have a shortage of skilled professionals that must be filled, but we also have millions of business leaders, heads of state, and social innovators who aren't willing to let this moment of opportunity slip away. Now we all must work together to cultivate the public policies, the training programs and the enthusiasm that will enable us to harness the power of the Internet to benefit people, communities and the planet.

Original Article

Girls Edging Out Boys in STEM Course-Taking, But Not Test Performance

The gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics may be starting to turn, according to new 2009 data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The data is coming at a time when states and districts are in a big push to get more students—and particularly girls—into STEM careers, via everything from mentorships and clubs to STEM-only schools.

By 12th grade, girls in 2009 were more likely than boys to have earned credit in advanced math and science, including Algebra II, chemistry, biology, and health sciences, though boys are significantly more likely to earn credit in computer science and engineering. Full article.

The Next Generation of Women in STEM

The word "engineer" is derived from two Latin terms meaning "to devise" and "cleverness." Contrary to popular perception, successful "engineering" has always required creativity and lots of out-of-the-box thinking. Thomas Edison may have had a lot of right-brain success, but it took him a whole lot of left-brain ideas to get there.

This is broadly true of all STEM fields, and also a key reason why diversity in STEM professions is important. We always need people who, in the words of Steve Jobs, "think different."

STEM careers have been traditionally male-dominated, with a number of barriers—some cultural, some more overt—that have impeded the retention and advancement of women in STEM fields. But empirical evidence tells us that companies with higher levels of gender diversity perform better than their competitors.

Full article: available here

How to interest girls in computer science and engineering? Shift the stereotypes

Women have long been underrepresented among undergraduates in computer science and engineering for a complex variety of reasons.

A new study by University of Washington researchers identifies a main culprit for that disparity: inaccurate stereotypes depicting computer scientists and engineers as geeky, brilliant and socially awkward males. And they say broadening those stereotypes is key to attracting more girls to the two fields.

Deeply ingrained in modern American society, stereotypes about computer science and engineering are widely accepted by students and effectively discourage girls from pursuing careers in those fields, the researchers conclude in the study, published this week in Frontiers in Psychology.

“People use these images to decide where they fit, where they’re going to be successful and what’s appropriate for them to pursue,” said Sapna Cheryan, an associate professor of psychology and the paper’s lead author.

“The first image that comes to mind for many students is the guy who is obsessed with science fiction and technology, and not interested in people. Students often think you have to fit that image to be successful at computer science.”

While women obtain about half of undergraduate degrees in biological sciences, they earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees. Misconceptions about girls’ math abilities take root as early as second grade, the study notes, and combine with stereotypes about the culture of the two fields as being incompatible with traits associated with women, such as a desire to work with and help others.

The result: Women feel like they don’t belong in computer science or engineering, and stay away. Full article: here

Five tips for women and girls pursuing STEM careers

Many attempts have been made to explain the historic and current lack of women working in STEM fields.

During her two years of service as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department, from 2009 to 2011, Anne-Marie Slaughter suggested a range of strategies for corporate and political environments to better support women at work. These spanned from social-psychological interventions to the introduction of role models and self-affirmation practices. Slaughter has written and spoken extensively on the topic of equality between men and women. Beyond abstract policy change, and continuing our celebration of women in STEM, there are practical tips and guidance for young women pursuing a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics.

(1) Be open to discussing your research with interested people. From in-depth discussions at conferences in your field to a quick catch up with a passing colleague, it can be endlessly beneficial to bounce your ideas off a range of people. New insights can help you to better understand your own ideas.

(2) Explore research problems outside of your own. Looking at problems from multiple viewpoints can add huge value to your original work. Explore peripheral work, look into the work of your colleagues, and read about the achievements of people whose work has influenced your own. New information has never been so discoverable and accessible as it is today. So, go forth and hunt!

(3) Collaborate with people from different backgrounds. The chance of two people having read exactly the same works in their lifetime is nominal, so teaming up with others is guaranteed to bring you new ideas and perspectives you might never have found alone.

(4) Make sure your research is fun and fulfilling. As with any line of work, if it stops being enjoyable, your performance can be at risk. Even highly self-motivated people have off days, so look for new ways to motivate yourself and drive your work forward. Sometimes this means taking some time to investigate a new perspective or angle from which to look at what you are doing. Sometimes this means allowing yourself time and distance from your work, so you can return with a fresh eye and a fresh mind!

(5) Surround yourself with friends who understand your passion for scientific research. The life of a researcher can be lonely, particularly if you are working in a niche or emerging field. Choose your company wisely, ensuring your valuable time is spent with friends and family who support and respect your work.

- See more at:

Mariangiola Dezani is a Professor at the University of Torino, Italy, where she has also been serving as Dean of the Computer Science Department since 2005. She has been on the editorial board of The Computer Journal since 2011.

Why engineering should be a woman's game

By Dame Prof Ann Dowling President, Royal Academy of Engineering

I was lucky. My father was an engineer - a major in the Royal Engineers. My parents encouraged my curiosity about the world around me and understood why I couldn't resist dismantling things from an early age.  They gave me a chemistry set one year, a magnetism kit the next.  I have always been interested in how things work. Like many people I was inspired by a great teacher - in my case a super science teacher when I was 10. He used to bring everyday gadgets to our lessons and explain the physics of how they worked.

Many of the jobs we will need in 20 years’ time have not been invented yet

I went on to study maths and then moved into engineering to work on noise reduction - my PhD project was on reducing the noise levels of Concorde.

The statistics in mixed state schools are quite shocking - as many as half of them are not returning a single girl for A-level physics

I have enjoyed a wonderful career in engineering, at the University of Cambridge, working with some of the brightest people in the country on projects ranging from silent aircraft to low-emission power plants. Continue reading the main story