“Who would hire a girl engineer? Who would undergo a surgery made by a female doctor?...” numerous questions are frequented by girls who decide to pursue a major in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, or what is widely known by STEM fields. STEM fields are often considered as male-dominated. Seeing girls choosing this field is far-fetched. Deficiency of women in such majors goes mainly to the lack of support they receive.
In fact, “43% of the 150 public companies with the largest revenue in Silicon Valley had zero female executive officers as recently as 2016".
Therefore, women remain underrepresented in STEM fields resulting in a large gender gap, and stereotypes discourage their ability to pursue a career in STEM. However, studies have shown that women possess the perfect traits to excel in STEMfields. On the one hand, women have shown personalized mentorship; naturally, they tend to be more cultivating and encouraging when it comes to leading teams. On the other hand, they have proved emotional intelligence, being empathetic especially while dealing with customers and understanding their needs, which ultimately increases the company’s revenue. It is worth mentioning that, psychologically, women are adept in communication and interpersonal interactions, which is essential to the business growth on the long term.
Many steps can be taken into consideration in order to bring balance to STEM fields and make them more welcoming to women:
- Push girls from school to choose STEM fields, seeing the importance of such majors in our society today all while giving them real-life skills that can be utilized in these areas.
- Mentor and guide girls and women through their journey to pursue lifelong learning. This step can be achieved by creation of programs aimed at helping women thrive in their careers. In this framework, BLC Bank has organized women in business program, a toolkit of full-fledged sessions providing them with all the needed information and strategies to reach their goals.
- Push women to help other women succeed. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons of the lack of women in STEM fields is the lack of role models. Most young people gravitate towards role models that seem to be like them. The fact of not witnessing women in leadership roles discourage young girls from applying.
- Hire & retain women inside the organization to reach leadership roles by opening doors and unleashing opportunities for them to have board positions, for example in family businesses. According to a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY, companies studied that had at least 30% female leadership had higher net profit margins (6%) than those with no women in senior ranks. Similarly, Catalyst recently reported that companies with higher levels of gender diversity were linked to lower levels of employee turnover.
- Encourage a diverse & inclusive management and board: “Today, there only 33 female CEOs in the Fortune 500, which can certainly be seen as an exclusive club where leaders get top experience and influence”. Diversity & Inclusion policy is becoming a critical factor for attracting and retaining top talent. 67% of job-seekers studied said a diverse workforce was an important factor to them when considering companies and job offers.
Last but not least, lack of women in STEM fields needs to be a serious leadership issue. We have a duty to empower, inspire, mentor, sponsor and support women achieve their full potential. Confidence is key. Every female needs to believe in herself and to be supported by effective mentors believing in her ideas. As Malala Yousafzai said “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful”.