Why are we still failing to attract and retain women in STEM?

Victoria Maclennan
March 8, 2017

Happy International Womens day everyone. A day when we collectively point a lens on diversity, equality of representation, pay parity, chauvinism, oppression and the many other challenges facing women today in 2017 while creating a path for future generations. So this is a slightly different OptimalBI blog today.
The gender diversity discussion is heightened in both the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and Leadership arenas. Both are challenged with attracting women into education and subsequently careers in these fields, this attraction issue compounded by hurdles and conditions created through years of male dominated workforces and leadership.
When speaking to groups on this topic my key message is simple –

We all have a role to play – men and women together

Women in STEM and Leadership need to stand up and be seen, we also need to encourage women in STEM and Leadership to stand up and be seen, this doesn’t come naturally to many of us but reality is – if girls can see it, they can be it – so the impact of visible role models should outweigh Impostor Syndrome and Tall Poppy concerns.

With this in mind it is worthy declaring I am a middle aged, straight, white woman and I have been told (by women) my privileged position does not qualify me to speak on diversity – which is true, my experience means I am narrowly qualified to speak on gender diversity in STEM and Leadership. I do worry when women dismiss other women, coupled with articles like this one published today, that this language will result in women shying away from becoming role models for fear of criticism. Context is everything when creating conditions for change and we need to work together to realise the opportunity equal representation of women in the workplace and leadership roles can bring.

Why are we still failing to attract and retain women in STEM?

Last month MultiCore World – a high performance computing conference – was held in Wellington and I was invited to speak on Women in STEM. The attendees predominantly have Professor as their title, were some of the most incredible minds I have ever encountered working on projects that are tackling global challenges like renewable energy, climate change, lunar science, cancer and so much more.
99% of the audience were men, 50% of delegates were totally engaged in my topic, asked excellent questions, lined up to talk to me in breaks seeking advice and in summary – all want to change the landscape of their workplace, university classroom or project. The other 50% looked at their phones and tablets, said nothing and I can only assume didn’t think this talk was for them.
These are the slides – with my talk added in the notes view. I am sharing them today on International Womens day in the hope the tips and experiences referenced can be useful to anyone who reads this. We are proud of our diverse team here at OptimalBI, I am especially proud of the fabulous women I work with here.
Lets celebrate wonderful women in our lives. Vic.

Gender diversity talk MultiCore World 2017 from Victoria MacLennan

Victoria spends much of her time focusing on Digital Inclusion, Digital Literacy and Digital Rights.  

You can read her OptimalBI blogs here, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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