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10 reasons why a career in STEM for women & girls is brilliant

Women in Stem collage

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Leila Seith Hassan, head of data science and analytics at Digitas, tells us why a career in stem is a brilliant move for women and girls.

A career in STEM isn’t just about busting stereotypes, but also creating incredible work that affects people on Earth and beyond.

LEILA SEITH HASSAN, HEAD OF DATA SCIENCE AND ANALYTICS AT DIGITAS

As Head of Data Science and Analytics for Digitas UK, Leila is responsible for driving connected experiences powered by analytics and data science. She has been a forceful campaigner of diversity and AI ethics and its wider impact on culture, business, and society, starting with ensuring diverse team structures are in place. Alongside her work to drive change in tackling AI biases at Digitas, she has actively been working on an UnBiased self-initiated mission in building a framework – is an effort to help organisations prevent harmful outcomes when using AI and is developing into a substantial project that will benefit a range of institutions and assist practitioners in asking the right questions about their technologies.

She has voiced the impact of bias in technology and data processing at events such as: keynote speaker at the Data Science Festival ‘Unlocking the Data Science opportunity’; MADFest DMEXCO “Making AI anti-racist”; Data Science Festival “Understanding Bias in Data Science”; Ecommerce Expo 2020, and recently been featured Raconteur and Campaign.

THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT TO INSPIRE MORE WOMEN TO ENTER STEM AND PROVIDE SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THOSE THAT ARE ALREADY IN IT.

When it comes to women and girls in STEM, the figures can be a bit depressing. When I was starting out, there weren’t many women, or women of colour. It’s better today but still, women remain the minority in STEM  taking up only 24% of the workforce. In 2016 it was 21%.

There are many reasons why. From stereotypes that lead parents and teachers to underestimate girls’ maths abilities as early as nursery. To male dominated cultures that make STEM workplaces unsupportive or unattractive to women and minorities. Source here.

So this is my call to all the girls and parents of girls who have shown an interest in maths or science. To the teenagers and career switchers thinking about a STEM profession, and to those struggling in their STEMS studies or workplaces.

LEILA’S TOP 10 REASONS TO GET INTO STEM AND STAY THERE

1 – STEM IS COOL.

There. I said it. When you get to know it, STEM can blow your mind. My first STEM icon was FBI Agent Dana Scully of the X-Files.  While the series had a focus on the unknown, she approached every case with science and got to the heart of the matters. Rational and sceptical, she was played by Gillian Anderson (Sex Education). The ‘Scully Effect’ is a thing that has been studied, take a look for yourself. This golden line never fails “I don’t have time for your convenient ignorance.”

2 – STEM IS INCREDIBLY BROAD

STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, covers so much. You could work anywhere from music to managing data centres, engineering on site or medicine. You don’t have to stick with the same job. 

3 – TRAVEL THE WORLD 

I don’t mean from your laptop. I’m lucky enough to have lived in four different countries through my work, in most cases, my employers sponsored my work permits and this is pretty regular. A career in STEM can take you all over the world working with amazing teams in different locations. That’s an opportunity that not all sectors can offer. 

4 – YOU DON’T NEED A DEGREE

Sure, some paths might follow academic routes, but you can easily find work when you learn how to code, and you don’t need a degree to do that. There are a lot of courses out there and you can do apprenticeships to learn on the job. This means the doors are open to a lot more people who learn in different ways. 

5 – FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE 

Fidelity, a financial services provider, found less than half of women in the UK feel financially independent. A US study found STEM careers paid 66% more than non-stem careers. With or without a degree. STEM skills can provide economic security, which means independence and agency over our own lives.

6 – IT’S A FLEXIBLE FIELD

Flexibility in the workplace has opened up because of the pandemic, but it’s also tightening as businesses call their staff back to the office. Many jobs in STEM can be done remotely or flexibly for some days of the week at least. 

Alien review on Twitter

7 – SURVIVE AN ALIEN INVASION! 

That might sound a bit more Mulder than Scully, but if you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ll probably recognise this review of the film Alien 

Be the smart STEM women you’re destined to be!

8 – YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

This is not science fiction. Women in STEM do incredible work that affects people on Earth and beyond. In the 1950s, women of colour Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn helped get the first humans to the moon (watch Hidden Figures!). Radia Perlman developed the algorithm behind the Spanning Tree Protocol which makes the internet possible, Grace Hopper invented the first compiler – a program that translates programming code into machine language and of course Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer program – in the 1800s. It’s your creativity and your way of thinking that can change the world through STEM learning.

9 – DESTROY STEREOTYPES

The more women in STEM, the more stereotypes we can crush. And the more women who join, the more we can welcome others. There’s also a need for more women of colour, women in different countries, trans women, young women, older women – all women. The more opportunities there are for girls to see what they can be – the more ways into this sector we can provide.

10 – FOR THE FUTURE OF ALL WOMEN, WE MUST DO THIS  

We know what happens when women aren’t involved in STEM.

Because female biology was assumed not researched, thousands of lives were lost. Heart attack symptoms in men and women are fundamentally different and we didn’t know this for years. Women of colour are four times more likely to die in childbirth in the UK.

Remember when Apple forgot periods in their comprehensive Health App? Health Tech unfortunately still defaults male so much that we call health tech for women, Femtech. Facebook continues to block ads for period products, pregnancy and cancer screenings because it is deemed inappropriate or sexually related. But better health outcomes for women lead to a better society as we are so often the healthcare decision makers for our whole families.

When voice recognition was originally used in cars, they didn’t register the higher frequency of women’s voices. Women couldn’t start their own cars. AI continues to discriminate and perpetuate misogynistic outcomes against women.

This isn’t hyperbole. As the outputs of STEM evolve and feature more in our lives, we need to have a seat at all the STEM tables to ensure our futures are bright and equitable and long. Not to mention interesting, remarkable, and brilliant.

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