When it comes to encouraging women into science, technology and engineering, we just haven’t got the messaging right. Most girls decide that jobs and careers in science are “not for people like me.” Let’s do something about this!
In celebration of ‘Girls in ICT Day’, WiTT invited Averil Macdonald OBE to lead her “People Like Me” workshop — a novel approach to figuring out how different types of people succeed in science, technology and engineering and where they will be happiest, using adjectives to describe their personalities and aptitudes, rather than the jobs themselves.
Traditional STEM outreach and engagement activities have a limited impact on girls and other young people who are under-represented in the STEM workforce. Averil, Professor, past-Diversity lead for nine University physics departments in the South East of England (SEPnet), issued a report titled “Not for People Like Me” for WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), sponsored by Network Rail, that triggered her subsequent launch of the “People Like Me” initiative.
The session included a brief introduction to the workshop followed by a short 10-minute quiz to uncover natural aptitudes. Analysis of the quiz results then led into a short careers talk around study and career options. A document of careers options based upon the various ‘types’ described in the session is here:
The quiz we took is here: WiTT – Girls in ICT Day People Like Me Workshop
Averil’s presentation is here: People Like Me WiTT slides
The jobs analysis document is here: Tech Job roles analysis
We had a more than 60 women and girls on the call, and there was plenty of lively discussion following Averil’s talk. WiTT thanks Averil for creating a thought-provoking and stimulating event for Girls in ICT Day!
The WiTT Board
Annette, Audrey, Helen, Michelle, Stephanie, and Yasmeen
From the ITU: Why Girls in ICT Day?
One of the best reasons for this celebration is the job opportunities available in the ICTs ! The sector has a pressing need for a wide range of ICT talents: there is a growing gap between the digital skills needed by employers and the number of jobseekers with the required technical know-how. This means that highly qualified women in technical fields will have a significant number opportunities available to them. However, not enough students are prepared for studying math, engineering, computing, and sciences in higher education. Consequently, the number of female technical students is disproportionately low.
ICT companies are looking to attract and promote women because achieving greater workforce diversity is good for business. The lack of young women participating in ICT studies is reflected in companies and government agencies around the world. The sector is currently male-dominated, especially at senior levels. Where women are present, it is often in low-level, low-skilled jobs. Fortunately, many companies and organizations are looking to increase the number of women represented in the sector, realizing that increasing the number of women at the top positively impacts financial performance. Those that ignore diversity issues, meanwhile, risk on-going labour shortages. ITU, as the leading United Nations agency for telecommunications and ICTs, encourages and works toward gender balance in the ICT sector at all levels, through many initiatives, including the EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age, a global, multi-stakeholder partnership committed to closing the gender digital divide.
Supporting the education of women and girls in the ICTs is also in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5, which is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls through, among other domains, ICTs. Not only do jobs in the tech sector lift women out of poverty; but also a more gender-balanced sector offers fulfilling mid- and high-level careers, and enables highly talented women to springboard to the top of the career ladder. This is good for everyone.
As UN Secretary General António Guterres said,
“Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls. Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all. There is overwhelming evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies and countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous… Gender equality is the unfinished business of our time”.
Professor Averil Macdonald OBE DSc D.Univ CPhys FInstP FRSA
Averil Macdonald is Emeritus Professor at the University of Reading and Professor of Inclusion and Equality at University of Birmingham. Averil was awarded the international Bragg Medal and Prize (1999) by the Institute of Physics, London, the accolade of Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Science (2007) in recognition of her work in Science Communication, the prestigious Plastics Industry Award for Personal Contribution to the Industry (2007), Honorary Doctorates by the University of York (2010) and Kingston University (2015) and an OBE in the Birthday Honours list 2015 for services to women in science.
Averil is currently Deputy Master of the Worshipful Company of Fuellers working alongside HRH Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex as Royal Master. Throughout her time as Deputy Master she is championing future energy solutions to decarbonise the UK, with a particular emphasis on using hydrogen to decarbonise the UK’s heating systems and to make decarbonised HGVs a reality. She is also focusing the Fuellers’ charitable work on supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider STEM qualifications as a route into the energy sector through three main charities: Teentech, Generating Genius and Smallpiece Trust.Averil’s other focus is supporting underrepresented groups in STEM, particuarly chanpioning women in STEM careers. She is a member of the Women’s Business Council, advising the UK Government on how to encourage girls into science and in advancing women’s careers in the STEM fields. She has previously been Chair of the Board of UKOOG, the trade association for UK Onshore Oil and Gas industry, a Director of the Cheltenham Festivals, sat on the board of Directors of WISE, (the Campaign for Women in Science and Engineering), and has served as a Trustee of the Science Museum Group, sat on the STFC Advisory Panel for Public Engagement and on the Court of Imperial College. At European level Averil has chaired Forum for Physics in Society in the European Physical Society and sat on the EU Helsinki Group for Gender in Research and Innovation advising the EU Commission on gender issues.
Averil is recognised for developing People Like Me – the revolutionary new approach to engaging girls with science and engineering. She has advised numerous universities and businesses on diversity and inclusion including NetworkRail and B&Q and has provided Unconscious Bias Training in education and business including BAESystems, Airbus and NetworkRail.