Scotland may be known around the world for its higher education but compared to many other leading and steadily emerging countries, we lack the drive of getting more women into technology, even though there’s no shortage in opportunities.
One significant reason we have fallen behind is that we aren’t the best at encouraging our young, female students to pursue career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and we don’t do enough to promote the many interesting dimensions within STEM, such as data science and cyber.
I’m not a big fan of the term STEM, and when I do speak to my daughters about it, they look at me blankly. But when I talk about Roblox, TikTok, robots, Snapchat, online shopping and online bullying, they know what I’m talking about. So why are we still calling it STEM?
In order to enthuse our younger female generation, we need to break it down, change the lingo and shout about the opportunities which exist – showcasing some of the ground-breaking technologies being created right on our doorsteps.
In cyber, for example, the global workforce remains stagnant at 11 per cent, but we can change this statistic in Scotland by focusing on a number of elements.
Show and tell
As a country, we stand to gain a lot by exposing young girls to technology and cyber and encouraging those who are interested to follow their hearts and minds. Simply focusing attention on one age group cannot cure all societal issues that influence career choices among females. We need all of the cyber gurus out there to go and speak to the younger generation about what they do, what could be possible and to highlight the opportunities which could lie ahead of them in areas such as fashion, policing and robotics. Organisations should offer a chance for women to learn more about the different possibilities cyber presents via shadowing programmes or career days.
Cyber events for school girls
More and more workshops are sprouting up nowadays encouraging young girls to look seriously at cyber. In and out of school programmes are gaining popularity, and in order for that to continue, those of us in cyber fields must support local and national efforts to engage girls. Without understanding the opportunities available to students even at primary school, young women may think they’ve made a mistake when facing the challenges of studying cyber in University.
This can’t be left solely to education and government. Industry needs more women in cyber, and must also play its part to ensure they’re looking at future gender balance and sustainability for their organisations in the fantastic country we live in.
Become a mentor
The value of mentorship is irreplaceable. Finding a mentor early on can do wonders for building confidence and translating that into career satisfaction. People chosen as mentors must have the capability to lead young people toward success. A mentor is not only someone who is willing to spend time teaching techniques and processes, but also someone who takes an interest in long-term advancement. Mentoring is one of the most important confidence builders that can be found day-to-day on the job, or in school.
Take charge and most importantly, be brave
We need to progress from the belief that it’s the Government or teachers’ jobs to encourage more women into careers in cyber. We should be the educators, the encouragers, and the people who find the time to make this shift in Scotland and empower girls so they can see it, and ultimately, be it.