Magazin Inter-Consulta

Why the issue of women in the STEM/MINT sector is still relevant

Throughout the world, women make a vital contribution to industrial output. Over 200 million women are employed across all industry sectors, varying from lower-tier jobs to management. However, the number of women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or MINT (Mathematik, Informatik, Naturwissenschaft und Technik) sectors is still substantially lower than the number of men. Therefore, a closer of understanding of why women choose not to or feel unable to enter in these STEM/MINT sectors must be encouraged with more focus on enabling access to positions that have been traditionally dominated by men. In the end the argument why is easy, it has been proven time and time again that companies with a higher level of equality between the sexes are much more successful.

In 2017, only 28% of workers in the IT sector in Germany were female. On the one hand, this is an increase of 4% since 2015. This increase is mostly due to schemes like MINT in Germany but also internationally with initiatives like ‘Kode With Klossy’ – a free two-week program for girls 13-18 years old where they learn to build real apps with code initiated by US super-model Karlie Kloss. On the other hand, it still isn’t enough. Not enough women are choosing to or feel able to enter the MINT/STEM sector. This is evidenced by the number of women graduating with degrees in this field. For example, in 2017 only 23.1% of graduates who studied engineering were female in Germany and this is still above average. On average, only 20% of graduates where the degree is related to a MINT/STEM subject are female in Germany. It is a difficult task to understand why this is, but it must be explored across all levels right from school, to the workplace and cultural attitudes, otherwise MINT/STEM companies will suffer as 50.8% of the population will be excluded, meaning more than half of potential employees and talent will be overlooked.

What is perhaps most worrying that this isn’t just a problem for right now. According to a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) from January 2018, the jobs which are mostly held by women will be most impacted by digitalization. In the US, it is predicted that 1.4 million jobs are under threat due to digitalization, 57% of these jobs are currently held by women. This is due to the fact that many women are in lower-tier jobs which will be eliminated due to optimizing processes caused by the digital boom. Furthermore, in a study entitled “Women in Management in Industry 4.0” conducted by Bisnode Deutschland in 2016 it is predicted that in the coming Industry 4.0 only 7.2% of jobs in management will be held by women – on average there are currently 11.7% of women in management positions. The future is looking more and more uncertain for women in industry despite the advancements of the last years.

So, how can STEM/MINT employers help buck the trend and encourage diversity in their workplace? The issue is complex, but it has been recommended that a few fundamental changes would aid in the fight for equality – helping not only women, but also men. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Salary Opennessthe gender pay gap can only be eliminated when companies remove the culture of secrecy allowing access to data and preventing inequality
  • Flexibility – a work/life balance and understanding of this is vital to encourage both genders to access the same positions as a huge restriction for women (mostly!) is the balance between family and work
  • Appropriate Action – against harassment, against sexism, against bullying

It is also worth considering working together with universities, or even schools, to allow access for all to these subjects and showing young women that this path is possible without reproach or judgement. It will always be a choice whether somebody, regardless of gender, chooses to enter the STEM/MINT sector but the choice must be with the individual, not due to outside factors, such as discrimination. Companies who do not address this and help elevate this issue will only hinder themselves.

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Nina Palmer

Januar 2019
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