news

BACK

Reshaping STEM: The launch of the Women’s Forum Daring Circles

08.10.2018
By Chiara Corazza, CEO of the Women's Forum for the Economy & Society 
 

Launch of the first Daring Circle in STEM at Google HQ in Paris

STEM jobs have grown by almost 80% in the last 25 years. And while women are more likely than men to work in STEM professions, they still need to do so in the areas with the largest job growth such as computer and software scientists, programmers and system analysts. Why are women moving away from STEM? What can be done?

This is one of the purposes of the new Daring Circle in STEM launched by the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society. On 11th October in Paris, we will bring together experts from institutions such as the European Commission, IMF, UNESCO as well as from the private and public sector. Led by Google, this working group will come together to address issues and propose solutions pertaining to women’s participation in the STEM economy.

Even before starting this working group, we at Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society are convinced that everything starts with the existing discrepancies between boys’ and girls’ primary education. Therefore, a major facet to our Manifesto that we presented to the G7 governments at Women’s Forum Canada was education and inclusivity. Of the several recommendations we made, we suggested reforming education and vocational systems to ensure equal access for girls, especially in advanced technological training. We are pleased that the significance of this has been reiterated in the announcement of funds by the G7 to the amount of $2.6 billion for girls’ education. This is a great achievement, and we must now ensure it is implemented.

We are living in a disrupted world. As highlighted by Madame Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore at Women’s Forum Singapore, 93 per cent of jobs in Singapore alone will be transformed in the next three years. The total impact is expected to be 56% for Japan, 51% of India and an average of 50% globally. We must ensure that women are at the forefront of this global transformation. As STEM becomes crucial, skills that will be in greater demand seem to favour women. Advanced communication and empathy, interpersonal skills and other aspects to “EQ” take the foreground. Despite this, there is a challenge to resolve. Women need more encouragement and curriculum needs redefinition to prepare women and prevent the narrowing pipeline in STEM. A study in the U.K shows that girls’ interest in STEM declines from 72% at the age of 11 to 19% by the time they are 18. This snowballs - while graduates holding STEM degrees is limited, women hold only half as many as men. A partner of the Women’s Forum, UNESCO highlights that mothers, more than fathers, must support their daughters’ education and career choices as the ideal role models. Audrey Azouley, Director General of UNESCO will continue this and other pertinent conversations at Women’s Forum Global Meeting, 14-16 November 2018.

A 2017 study by another partner, OECD shows that boys are twice as likely as girls to expect to work as engineers, scientists or architects by age 15. This shows that encouragement needs to progress from education to industry. Leave rates for women in science, engineering, and technology (SET) peak about 10 years into their careers. Almost one-third of women in the United States (32%) and China (30%) intend to leave their SET jobs within a year. A surprising paradox is that gender equality is inversely proportional to women in STEM. While countries such as Kazakhastan and Malaysia have 53.3% and 48.6% of female researchers respectively, the global average lags behind at 28.8%.

This paradox, women’s education and integrating policy in the private sector and more will be the central theme of the upcoming Women’s Forum Global Meeting. We must unlock the potential of women in STEM – and consequently add almost 820 billion euros to global GDP by 2050. If we do not act now, then when?