WRITTEN BY: N'ORA KALB
As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 – a day that has been celebrated for over a century – it seems like a good time to raise the issue that after all this time, women are still not equally represented in STEM fields. STEM is comprised of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and according to Statistics Canada, in 2016, women held only 23% of Canadian science and tech jobs among 25-64-year-old Canadians.
At Innovate Niagara, we work with entrepreneurs and small businesses developing new innovations. A lot of those innovations are STEM-related. We looked at our ratio of female to male clients, that is founders of innovative companies, and about 27% have founders or senior leadership made up of a mix of men and women while only 15% are female-only led. We want to see more female founders in Niagara!
Why is it important to have more women in tech fields?
- Those fields (especially engineering and computer science) are the highest paying and fastest growing jobs. If women are more equally participating in those careers, we can help close the gender wage gap.
- We are all impacted when there is a lack of diversity in designing and developing new technology. Without diversity in these fields, we may miss out on designing solutions that work for a diversity of people.
- There is a labour shortage in fields such as computer science – why not tap into the other 50% of the population?
So why don’t more women go into STEM fields?
We’ve teamed up with the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Niagara Council to bring Women in STEM events. In January we had Dr. Kira Lussier, a professor at the Institute for Gender and the Economy, talk about her studies on gender diversity.
As Dr. Lussier discussed, the lack of gender diversity is due to a number of factors. There are unconscious biases which impact girls’ and women’s decisions on what they want to study and workplace socializations that make it unwelcoming for women to have STEM careers. We end up with less women entering STEM fields, and those that do, drop off at a greater pace than men.
Dr. Lussier explained that, unfortunately, there isn’t an easy fix to close the gap, but offered a few solutions:
- Remove biases in hiring practices (that we may not know are even there).
- Mentor girls and expose them to potential STEM careers
- Become more inclusive in our workplace policies.
At Innovate Niagara, we want to create a space for women in STEM, for those working, studying or just interested in STEM, to have a community of other women and men that is a positive, encouraging environment. Subscribe to our mailing list and stay tuned for more STEM events to grow your network of STEM “femmes”!
N’ora Kalb is Director of Operations at Innovate Niagara. Subscribe to the mailing list (below) and find other events here .
This article originally appeared in Business Link Niagara.