Lack of female role models driving women away from STEM careers

Lack of female role models driving women away from STEM careers

Lack of female role models driving women away from STEM careers

A new study by Kaspersky Lab has revealed that a lack of feminine role models in STEM careers discourage more than a third of young women from choosing careers in STEM fields such as cyber security, programming, and research and development.

A couple of years ago, a study commissioned by Kaspersky Lab revealed that a lack of knowledge about cyber security and a lack of coding experience played a part in a majority of women not choosing cyber security as their future career options.

“This suggests a need for young girls to have access to advice and information about the industry at a younger age, so that they don’t rule it out in favour of more traditional professions such as lawyers, medics or teachers that have long-established career paths,’ the firm said.

Female role models a must to attract more women to STEM fields

The firm added that the biggest reason behind the lack of female participation in cyber security was the lack of female role-models or influencers around them. While 31% of the people interviewed by Kaspersky Lab said that they met people from the cyber security industry, only 11% of them knew women working in the field. However, for those who did interact with women in the field, their opinion about cyber security had turned positive.

“This clearly shows the power of role models in promoting the industry as a whole and how inspirational female personalities can be utilized to make cybersecurity a more attractive proposition for women and help to reduce today’s skills shortage,” the firm said.

Even in 2019, the situation hasn’t changed much, despite the government running several programmes to boost the participation of women in the cyber industry. A new study commissioned by Kaspersky Lab has revealed that almost a third of women are not very inclined towards choosing a career in STEM fields because of a lack of female professionals in the industry.

The study, which is based on a survey of 5,000 IT professionals, also revealed that while 34% of women in the UK were put off by the prevailing gender imbalance in the tech industry, 53% of women across Europe said they would be less likely to join an organisation where gender gaps exist.

Technical certifications should not be the only criterion

The study also highlighted the fact that there is an environment of male dominance in STEM fields, with over one in four female IT decision makers telling Kaspersky Lab that they witnessed ‘mansplaining’ in their day jobs. About 40% of female IT decision makers also called for governments and universities to offer more incentives to help young girls and women choose careers in STEM fields.

“It’s time for firms to demonstrate a greater willingness to diversify their workforce and assess what traits are required — lateral thinking, problem-solving skills, an understanding of risk management — rather than narrowly focusing on technical certifications alone. This requires a depth and breadth of vision that goes beyond traditional thinking,” said Matthew Buskell, AVP at Skillsoft.

“When it comes to mining the potential of the female empowered workforce, numerous national programmes are encouraging women to acquire cyber-skills. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has created courses to encourage girls to consider studying the subject at A-level and university.

“Similarly, since 2013 the Code First: Girls organisation has been supporting young adult and working age women in the UK to develop further professional skills, such as coding and programming, and working with companies to help them capture top female tech talent,” he added.

Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft, told TEISS last year that encouraging women to get into STEM fields ultimately starts with education – from school to the boardroom.

“In school, coding should be mandatory for everyone; complex problem solving and critical thinking should be part of every day life. Getting female talent into the industry is only half the story, however. Making sure they rise up the ranks is also key – with the support of women in leadership training programmes.

“Ultimately, a lot needs to change if we are to close the gender gap in STEM. Through education and encouragement of both women and men, we can chip away at out-dated biases and create a more equal workplace,” she added.

ALSO READ: Women make up JUST 11% of the cyber security workforce

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