Stem industries not a male-only domain
It is important for parents and teachers to reach out to young girls before they are 13 years old and speak to them about the importance of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) fields, experts said at a forum on Tuesday.
Speaking at a discussion at the 18th Global Women In Leadership Economic Forum, panelists revealed that Stem fields are generally perceived to be the domain of male workers, and, as such, see very few active women. Even in recent years, there has only been a small increase in the number of women entering the male-dominated fields, and a large number of those women that do enter the disciplines eventually drop out to pursue another career or start a family. Even those women that are passionate about their work in the Stem industries continue to cite a number of reasons that make it hard for them to work.
"It is important to speak to various people in the community about the importance of girls pursuing careers in the Stem fields," said Shelli Brunswick, COO of Space Foundation. "We need to speak to parents, teachers and anyone who thinks that Stem fields are not a place for women. We need to put a stop to individuals telling young girls that Stem is not a place for women because it is too hard a field of study. We need to tell these young girls, especially if they are interested, that there are opportunities for them. There is so much hidden potential just waiting to be tapped in the minds of these young girls."
Brunswick noted that the challenge was not limited to bringing young girls into the Stem fields, but also to retain them. Many girls were more than happy to work in Stem disciplines, but often left if the work environment wasn't friendly or flexible. Many found work in related fields or went on to start their own businesses if their work needs weren't met.
"Women should be accepted for who they are, and for what they want to do, especially in this day and age," said Baljeet Nagi, SCM sales development and strategy director for the Middle East and Africa region at Oracle.
The buzzwords today are digital transformation, the cloud and the Internet of Things, Nagi listed, yet many girls were not actively thinking of joining those fields. Working on changing that trend, Oracle, she revealed, has invested $100 million in schools and universities for teaching girls valuable IT skills. "Women are very capable of doing different things and diversifying their interests, and all they require are a chance to do so."
Hoda Abou Jamra, founding partner of TVM Capital Healthcare Partners and founding chair of the GCC chapter of the 30% Club, spoke about the importance of having mentors for young girls. She stressed that it was important for women, especially those that had leadership roles in Stem fields, to take the time and reach out to young girls. Young women, she said, were always inspired when they were presented with an example of a successful woman in the Stem disciplines.
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