A new year brings with it a sense of optimism and hope for what lies ahead. Despite what we often felt was a crushing year during which we faced the unprecedented challenges associated with Covid-19, optimism revealed itself in the form of new inventions, collaborations and developments that accelerated and improved the world of STEM. many areas of life.
I am particularly encouraged by the global recognition surrounding Dr Sarah Gilbert’s discovery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. A year after the UK deployed the vaccine, a staggering 2.5 billion doses have been administered worldwide, saving countless lives, helping to keep many people out of hospitals, and reducing pressure on healthcare services.
This innovation demonstrated the impact of science on our daily lives and created a closer relationship between the public and the scientific community. But it is a rare example of a female scientist being publicly recognized and celebrated, something that remains a barrier in helping to address gender diversity in STEM fields.
You can’t be what you can’t see
Positively culminating in annual increases having over one million women currently working in STEM fields, they still make up less than 30% of the global STEM workforce.
Far from being a simple exercise or passing fad, there are larger issues and implications at play here that go beyond just the need to address the gender divide. It is about the unique value of women and their contribution to the STEM industries – many of which are still male-dominated even though some of the world’s best scientists and technologists are women.
While it was not a matter of gender or race quotas, the absence of a single female in the scientific categories of the new Nobel Prize winners was notable.
However, we already know that diverse teams are better at problem-solving and developing innovative solutions to challenging issues. This is well illustrated in studies of corporate leadership and corporate board membership, where companies with more diverse leadership perform significantly better on financial metrics.
In the same way as modern workplaces, we need to develop STEM environments that are inclusive and diverse, and put in place policies and programs that encourage and support women while removing systemic barriers to their advancement in STEM careers. We need to reshape the world in society so that young women and girls can see themselves as role models and have the same ambitions.
The education system and learning community play a critical role in making this happen, from paying more visible attention to the achievements of women scientists, to nurturing female students who show an initial interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and making sure they have support systems to follow through. .
During the pandemic, we have seen the importance of scientists and nations that would normally be competitive in the face of an existential threat. In this regard, the value of the diverse contribution has allowed the advancement and acceleration of innovation and the ability to provide solutions at scale. The same applies to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Diversity makes science better, both by enabling 50% of the world’s population to contribute to STEM – with exceptional results – and by expanding the perspectives, questions and areas that researchers explore, allowing greater possibilities for new discoveries. In short, women offer both deep experience and broad perspective.
Knowing that science and technology are at the forefront of providing solutions to some of humanity’s greatest challenges – from the climate crisis to health care, sustainability and the global pandemic – certainly creates hope that scientists, politicians, and educational systems will continue to work together for a more prosperous future.
But if we want STEM to benefit and support our entire diverse community, we need to employ more role models and represent that diversity in these areas, ensuring the attractiveness of STEM careers so that the talent pipeline of future-generational Young woman to continue the work of turning the goal into progress.
First and foremost, teams without women are missing out on half the talent in this world. The lack of diversity on the teams also limits the perspective that women can ask questions. When we determine who can contribute, we, in turn, limit the problems that can be solved.
Ease of access helps ambition
You have spoken about the need to improve communication, clarity and storytelling when it comes to the impact of science and technology in making everyday impact, and the role of women in this progress. Just as important are the recognition, motivation, and need to enable STEM access to disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.
The STEM communities do a great job of raising awareness and participation in these groups, including STEM-focused field days, workshops, mentoring plans and placements while working with research and academia. We are also increasingly seeing philanthropic and CSR initiatives by the private sector, designed to deliver solution-focused innovations.
For example, I am a member of the jury in VinFuture Award, a global award created last year in Vietnam to pledge $4.5 million annually to reward scientific research and innovation that improves lives around the world.
Unlike other science awards, it focuses on combining scientific and humanistic findings with nominations focused on the most pressing challenges facing humanity and the role of science and technology in helping address them.
With its special award for women, the Foundation hopes to start a revolution in the way we value, reward and recognize women scientists. But also to nurture, nurture and spark passion and faith among anyone around the world who might be interested in pursuing a career in STEM.
This extends to the additional award for innovators from developing countries, who usually do not receive recognition because their voices are not heard as widely as they deserve.
While prestigious celebrations do exist, there is not enough to focus explicitly on how science and technology can create a better world for all, and this kind of recognition of scientific achievement is crucial to fostering diversity within the scientific community to expand access for future innovators.
Fostering a more feminine future in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
By continuing to celebrate and celebrate female achievements in STEM fields, we can energize new talent and inspire the next generation of women to consider a rewarding career in STEM disciplines while simultaneously accelerating global innovation and solutions to complex challenges.
My message to anyone considering a career in STEM is to always ask what you don’t understand, work very hard, dream big, and remember that in the end, what matters most is the positive impact you can have on humanity and the world around you.
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