We’re sharing our top advice for people looking to embark on or progress in their STEM career path on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science
“What I would like to say to any females considering a STEM career is how absolutely necessary you are!”
Vicky Zuiderent, Director and Co-Founder at Vilo Sky and Head of Credit at Auden
February 11 heralds the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, with the occasion aiming to achieve full and equal participation in a subject which is known to open up a lot of doors. This is because now, more than ever, it’s recognised that access to science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving true gender equality and empowerment.
In previous years, a significant gender gap has persisted at all levels of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Even though women have made great progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still sadly underrepresented in these fields.
In fact, according to the UN, women are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues and, while they represent 33.3% of all researchers, only 12% of members of national science academies are women. In more cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence, just one in five professionals (22%) is a woman.
In addition, despite a shortage of skills in most of the technological fields in recent years, women still account for only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics.
This had resulted in female researchers tending to have shorter, less well-paid careers. Their work is also underrepresented in high profile academic journals and they are more frequently passed over for promotion.
What’s evident is that there’s a need for a more consistently level playing field, which is why we asked a selection of our female contacts in STEM roles for their best advice for young people seeking to carve out their own successful career.
Secure the most relevant qualifications
Hallie Thomas, a Credit Risk Consultant at specialist risk consultancy 4most, shares her thoughts on which qualifications are the most useful when it comes to advancing your STEM career,
“I’d say the best qualifications to gain are in mathematics and statistics, as you can use these skills in so many roles. Also, obtaining applicable qualifications like ACCA or a qualification in accounting and finance will give you an idea of how to apply mathematics and statistics to a finance role.”
If you were to choose ACCA as an additional qualification, they will encourage you to keep up-to-date with continuous personal development requirements, and this could entail relevant learning, for example in the subject of climate change. This will have the added bonus of providing you with an edge over the competition, which is crucial when it comes to impressing at an interview and bagging that coveted role.
Channel your expertise across a variety of sectors
Hallie also mentions the importance of standing out by obtaining a broad range of skills across a range of industries,
“This will make you different compared to all of the other CVs the employers will see. I, for example, apply my statistics background to both the finance and medical industries.”
Don’t be afraid to seek advice
Hallie is a firm believer that you need to take the time to develop your confidence throughout your career. She suggests cultivating a relationship with a mentor who you trust can help you with this. Ultimately, a mentor will help you stay focused on your career and improve your skills, networks and self-confidence. They help you carve out a direction which results in the optimum career outcome.
Understand that you have the power to drive industry diversity and progression
Vicky Zuiderent is a Director and Co-Founder at coaching and consultancy services business Vilo Sky, as well as being Head of Credit at Auden. It’s her belief that increasing the numbers of women in STEM careers is an absolute necessity,
“There is uncontested, recognised value in diversity, not least because the more women we have in STEM roles, the less bias there is likely to be in future technological design. It is dangerous for any process to be designed and controlled by a single demographic, and STEM roles are overwhelmingly still occupied by men.
“The more women that progress within STEM, the more change we will see to outdated, masculinised and often inaccurate ideas. I wish I had realised at the start of my career that the rules we operate under weren’t created to be equal and fair, and that we have a right, almost an obligation, to question them.”
Identify the roles where your education can open up doors
With Vicky’s background in risk within the banking industry, she admits that she would love to see more female data scientists, analysts and statisticians in financial services,
“[As a graduate] you have the benefit of having just received the most up-to-date, recent, innovative and technologically advanced academic thinking and your experiences as women would bring fresh ideas and different perspectives to financial product and service design. Academic ability is already demonstrated by your qualifications, so what makes you stand out is demonstrating how your uniqueness can, or will, effect real change.”
Expand your knowledge outside of the academic sphere
Vicky also suggests broadening experiences in any way possible outside of your studies. This might include keeping in touch with publications and journals in your field of interest, particularly those from a feminist standpoint, such as Feminist Economics or Signs. She also highly recommends becoming familiar with scholars and authors such as Judy Wacjman (technology), Marilyn Waring (economics), Cathy O’Neil (maths and data science) and one of her personal favourites, Caroline Criado-Perez (data bias).
Career opportunities are in abundance
Our own Managing Consultant Ellie Sykes has been recruiting in the Credit Risk & Analytics arena for over 15 years. She has seen for herself the changing priorities when it comes to the skills that financial services and banking organisations look for, as well as the increased drive for recruitment of females into typically male-dominated sectors,
“Firstly, I agree with Hallie’s thoughts about STEM qualifications. The majority of my clients look for candidates with mathematical, statistical or analytical education as it forms a fantastic basis on which to build out the more niche and technical knowledge you need later in your career.
“This applies at all role levels. It’s not just graduates and junior analysts but Senior Managers, Heads of Credit Risk and Chief Risk Officers who all need to demonstrate that basic mathematical understanding which underpins credit risk business activity.
“Secondly, over the 15 years’ that I’ve been recruiting in the Credit Risk & Analytics space, I have absolutely seen that there has been an increased spotlight on gender imbalance in STEM-related industries, and organisations are now working to correct it.
“Without a doubt we have seen improvements, but there is still a way to go before we reach true equality. The demand for diverse and balanced candidate shortlists is higher than ever which is a great indicator for the future of females in STEM careers.
“This will be music to the ears of women pursuing STEM roles. Not only is there a huge number of roles available at the moment as companies look to the future, but hiring strategies are focused on addressing diversity and equality, so there are plenty of opportunities out there for the taking!”
If you would like to discuss how we can support your career progression or hiring strategies within the Credit Risk & Analytics arena, get in touch today!
A huge thank you to Hallie and Vicky for collaborating with us on this piece! If you would like to work with us on a thought leadership article, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.