The Power of Diversity: Why More Women Leading in STEM is Necessary to Drive Positive Change

Have you ever wondered why some of society’s most pressing issues remain unresolved? The technology and education seem to be available, yet we still struggle to identify effective solutions to global problems including climate change, inequality, and poverty. One reason may be that we are not harnessing the power of diversity.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that diversity in backgrounds leads to diversity in perspectives, which in turn can lead to more innovative and inclusive solutions. Our best problem-solving is often born from interactions because we need to collaborate to hone in on the multifaceted problems of the world we live in to provide the best solutions. By this logic, diverse profiles tackling a given problem in collaboration will allow a problem to be solved in the best possible manner.

So how come we are still effectively excluding the perspectives of so many women, especially in STEM, and especially in leadership positions? Why is it so difficult for our society to take meaningful action towards bringing more diverse backgrounds into play, and why is it that, according to the WEF [1], we are still 132 years away from closing the gender gap to achieve global gender parity?

Answering these questions is immensely complex and beyond the scope of this article. However, I do want to provide you with some food for thought on the importance and practice of empowering more women to explore ICT and other STEM-related fields.

The historically male-dominated world of STEM is prone to transferring an (often unconscious) bias to the technology developed, creating solutions that are tailored to men, and often not focusing on addressing problems affecting women. More inclusive solutions will benefit everyone, not just the minority [2].

Unfortunately, women are underrepresented in ICT and STEM already since childhood. Young girls are less digitally literate than young boys, and the internet’s access and safety issues pose a larger entry barrier for girls than for boys [3]. At university level, we see this trend continue with a rough distribution of three men for every one woman in ICT-related fields[4]. Encouraging more women to enter the field will help close the gender gap and ensure inclusive solutions for a more sustainable future. Luckily, many great initiatives already work to encourage more girls to pursue education and careers within STEM;

* Early exposure to technology combined with an experience that technology is fun, creative, and for everyone is pivotal for lighting a curious spark for technology in the minds of young girls. For instance, the work of imagiLabs encourages all kids to be creative with technology.

* Women’s mentorship programs allow connections between women of different ages and experiences to flourish. I have no doubt that I would not be who I am today, without the great mentors-turned-role models I’ve had. Role models also help break stereotypes, for instance by proving every day that women belong in their field of interest and can make valuable contributions. However, a lot of these programs are targeted at women who already decided to move into STEM-related fields, leaving behind those who were discouraged at an earlier age.

* Networks of support such as Women TechEU or the Future Women Leaders (composed of alumni from the European Leadership Academy) allow the female tech leaders of tomorrow to grow in a space tailored to them; not something fitted for their male counterparts. These networks often have some focus on educating the next generation, appearing as role models as well.

Through continued focus on inclusive initiatives, we can encourage more girls and young women to pursue education within STEM fields. More educated women leading the field will in turn promote diversity and innovation in ICT and STEM in general.

Looking to the future, it is pivotal that we actively work to address any bias, not just the gender-based. We need technology for people – for men, for women, for people of all races and abilities. We need inclusive solutions that work for everyone. And who better to lead this process of change than historically underrepresented minorities – like women? I encourage all women currently in STEM to engage in initiatives encouraging more young women to pursue education and careers within STEM, and I put faith in the female STEM leaders of tomorrow to steward sustainable and inclusive solutions for a better tomorrow. So, what are you waiting for?

[1] World Economic Forum (July 2022) - Global Gender Gap Report 2022

[2] Deloitte (August 2019) - The Economic Benefits of Improving Social Inclusion

[3] UNICEF (June 2021) - What we know about the gender digital divide for girls: A literature review

[4] OECD (August 2018) – Bridging the Digital Gender Divide