In the lead up to the Women’s Forum Asia Pacific, it was interesting to see reported in the Australian media a reduction of female CEO’s in the ASX200 from 7% to 6% over the past twelve months. Whilst 1% decrease might not seem significant, what is cause for concern, is that there was a decrease despite the significant efforts being made in influencing the gender equality agenda in the Pacific region. Helen Clark (former New Zealand Prime Minister) commented in the W20 Forum in Japan a few years back, that whilst it is important to see females in those senior leadership roles, without significant work on building critical mass in the talent pools for such roles, that sustainability of gender balance in leadership would continue to be an issue, and indeed the 2018 WEF forecast for closing the gender gap saw an increase from 100 to 108 years. It was a timely reminder as to why we need to continue to focus on the broader ecosystem and the longer term outcomes when reflecting on our journey towards gender equality.
As we look forward, to what the future of work holds - AI, robotics, technology transforming how we live and work - our minds often turn to the trends we see much further down the pipeline. UNESCO reports that in our region only 35% of students enrolled in STEM2D (Science Technology, Engineering Manufacturing, Mathematics & Design) related fields are female1. Even more alarmingly, the majority of teenage girls (66% of 12-19 year olds) revealed that they found STEM- related subjects challenging and 35% found science lessons dull or irrelevant. Most shockingly, 50% expressed reluctance towards pursuing a STEM-related career because of strong male dominance.
As a significant employer of STEM2D talent, defining the role we can play in addressing the imbalances in the developing talent pools that will be critical to our success in the years to come. The value in increasing the representation of Women in STEM2D is clear – companies with gender diverse talent outperform on profitability value creation, those with more inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile; and three times more likely to be high performing.
At Johnson & Johnson, our commitment to igniting and inspiring minds to transform the trajectory of health comes alive in the work we do under our WiSTEM2D program (Women in STEM2D). We recognize that early exposure to the breadth of WiSTEM2D helps spark enchantment towards the field. Through our youth programs (in partnerships with Junior Achievement, Microsoft, Fhi360, Cargill & UN Women) we connect with young women in Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, India and Australia. Our employees engage with school-aged girls to experience creative problem-solving and expose them to a variety of work experiences linked to STEM2D-related careers. Our partnership with Tokyo University provides career insights for female science students readying themselves to enter the workforce. Our aspiration is to spark enchantment amongst one million school girls and university students across the world, in the hope that our societies and communities will continue to benefit from the injection of their collective brilliance, changing the trajectory of health for humanity.