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How women are inspiring change in STEM business culture.

By Sara MacGregor

The lack of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) offices, labs and University courses is costing the sector talent, ideas and progress. But creative recruitment campaigns are helping accelerate change.

A recent dive into family history turned up an unexpected ancestor perched on a two hundred year old branch of my genealogical tree. For many years Ada Lovelace was known, if she was mentioned at all, as Lord Byron’s daughter (although she never knew him), or as a correspondent of the computer pioneer Charles Babbage. Nowadays, Lovelace’s algorithms for Babbage’s Analytical Engine are widely recognised as the first example of a computer code, and she is celebrated as the grandmother of programming.

Ada Lovelace

“As a descendant of Ada Lovelace, I’m proud to fly the flag for women working in STEM industries. But a glance at the stats can be depressing. Only 22% of people working in core STEM areas are women, and in the Tech sector we make up just 16%* of the workforce.”

When Abbie joined CGI as a graduate, a leading IT services and consultancy company, she found a familiar STEM environment. That’s to say, lots of blokes, not many women. So Abbie did what women have been doing for centuries – she decided to make a difference.

Making the case

Taking advantage of an initiative at CGI to find new ways of improving departments, Abbie pulled together the stories of seventy five women whose work, inventions, and discoveries have transformed our understanding and experience of the world. Her panel ranged from famous trail blazers, including Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace, to lesser known pioneers like the ancient Egyptian astronomer and mathematician Hypatia, or Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood actress and scientist, whose wartime research into frequency-hopping led to the wifi, GPS and Bluetooth technology we rely on today.

Presenting to CGI business leaders, sponsors and her fellow graduates, Abbie used these voices from the past to make an impassioned call to educate girls leaving school and college about STEM careers, and encourage more women graduates to apply for jobs in the sector.

Inspiring change

CGI sat up and took notice, and that’s when we got involved. CGI’s Recruitment Marketing Manager , David Phillips, got in touch to discuss the best way to share Abbie’s research and communicate the company’s commitment to increasing its female intake. We worked with Abbie to design a Recruitment Brochure full of inspiring stories about exceptional women, practical advice on how to follow in their footsteps, and the opportunities available at CGI. Abbie loves her job and is determined that the next generation of engineers, scientists and tech professionals is strengthened by containing a much greater number of talented women. It’s a mission we can all sign up to.

For me, this kind of project is a dream to work on. Passionate people, a supportive and forward-thinking client, and a determination to change things together. An ongoing demand for brochure reprints shows that our creative efforts have been successful and young women are being inspired at careers fairs across the country. The future of STEM, and CGI, is looking brighter and a lot more female friendly. I think Ada would be happy with that.

Make a difference

It may be the result of research, recruitment commitments, or a simple look around your office. If you want to encourage more women to apply for roles and increase staff diversity in your business, we can help. Let’s find the most effective and inspiring route to make a difference to your company.

* source: https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/statistics/2018-workforce-statistics/

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