Why Girls in STEAM Week is a Start, Not an End | Webnames Blog

Why Girls in STEAM Week is a Start, Not an End

The economy needs more women in technology. While studies show that girls outperform boys in non-STEM subjects and came out almost equal in STEM subjects, fewer young women pursue post-secondary educations in STEM than young men, which leads to fewer women with careers in higher-paying STEM fields. In fact, technology is the only STEM discipline where the participation of women has declined in the past 20 years.

In 2016, Canadian women made up approximately one-third (34%) of all recipients of STEM bachelor’s degrees, but only a fifth of them was enrolled in information and communication technologies, with the majority pursuing educations in the physical and life sciences (55%).

Representation Benefits Everyone, including Business

So what does this have to do with Webnames? Quite simply, as a technology company, we want to employ more women.

Scholarly research from the past few years has shown that a lack of women in technology can lead to a decrease in performance and profits for businesses. It’s not just about the bottom line, though. The lack of gender diversity in software development, particularly in algorithms and AI, has all sorts of real-world consequences like ads perpetuating the pay gap by targeting better-paid job listings toward men and women being incorrectly diagnosed by algorithms that leverage public health data in which male symptoms are overrepresented. Unfortunately, those are just contemporary examples of an age-old problem that can be seen in everything from the way seatbelts and airbags were designed to accommodate average size male bodies, to how pagers and microphones utilize clips making them awkward and incompatible to wear with dresses.

When women (and minorities) are represented in tech leadership, product design and development, the end result are products that work better for everyone! And products that work better for everyone are products that are more likely to sell.

Girls in STEAM Week in British Columbia

This is why events like the Girls in STEAM Symposium at Science World on November 2nd matter! As Janet Wood, President and CEO of Science World explains, initiatives like this present a critical, early-stage “opportunity to address this [STEAM job] gap by supporting youth in developing and fostering an ongoing love for careers in these fields.” The event reached its registration capacity in minutes, showing how thirsty educators, parents, business leaders and, GIRLS are for programming that can inspire, engage and empower them to pursue careers in STEAM through learning opportunities and fostering connections with female role models in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.

In addition to the Girls in STEAM Symposium, November 2nd also marks the kickoff of the Women and Girls in STEAM Week in British Columbia. In her role as Vice-Chair of BC’s Small Business Roundtable and as a member of Science World’s board, Webnames.ca CEO Cybele Negris saw an opportunity to bring greater attention to this dilemma in our province, successfully lobbying the BC government for an official proclamation of a Women and Girls in STEAM week for a second consecutive year. This year’s proclamation will happen twice, at Science World on November 2nd at 11:30 AM with Rick Glumac, Parliamentary Secretary for Technology and again with Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade, and Technology at the Richmond Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Leadership Panel & Luncheon on November 6th.

Not Merely an Early-Stage problem

While we are delighted to see such events receive strong support from government and corporate sponsors, we need more than proclamations to remedy this disparity. Inspiring young girls is essential, but the lack of women professionals in science and technology is more than a pipeline problem. While it’s getting better all the time, there’s a great deal of work to be done around attracting and retaining women in careers that relate to mathematics, computer and information sciences and engineering, particularly in building inclusive workplaces and stemming unconscious bias.

As Negris has noted, “we must work tirelessly to tear down the walls that face female grads once they get their STEM credentials.” Business owners, in particular, hold a critically important role in making this happen, starting with supporting flexible work arrangements, placing more women in leadership positions, and identifying systemic unconscious biases in everything from hiring practice to the language used in our workplaces. Change is most effective when it comes from the top, and for businesses to increase performance and profit, leaders need to steer the change that girls and women require to hold satisfying and financially rewarding careers in technology and science.

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