Technology, data, and design are changing the way we live, work, and play. We see it every day in the work that we do with our clients, but also as consumers – we feel it every day in how we live. But yet we have a baffling situation on our hands: supply and demand in the STEM workforce (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
The depth and breadth of job opportunities are endless. But industry is struggling to find enough people to fill the roles today, let alone in five years’ time. The diversity within STEM careers is massive – mathematicians, technologists, developers, and engineers are just a few. Doesn’t this spark a sense of ambition and excitement within you? I can’t help but think WOW! – the sky is literally the limit in terms of possibilities. But, for some reason, these opportunities don’t seem to resonate with everyone, and this discrepancy is particularly high for girls and women.
I believe there has never been a better time to be in STEM. Yet girls and young women are being left behind despite the industry cry for help. A study of 14 countries found that the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related fields are 18%, 8%, and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18%, and 6%.
The simple truth is that STEM fields have a diversity problem and we need an all hands-on deck approach to take action.
There isn’t one simple problem with one easy solution. How do we foster and implement change in our education system? How do we get workplaces committed to diversity, inclusivity, and equality? What keeps girls who score highly in STEM classes in high school from pursuing STEM in university? How do we eliminate the bias that keeps women out of STEM fields? How do we close the nearly $13,000 pay gap between men and women in STEM jobs? It’s going to take honest reflection, tough conversations, and hard work to build sustainable solutions and to change this storyline.
Here at T4G, gender diversity is a team effort. Our motto is “bring great people together and great work will follow”. We build diverse teams across the country with the biggest and brightest minds. The result is not only our best work, but solutions to big, complex, and hairy problems. T4G recognizes the lack of diversity (of all sorts) in our industry and we are actively working both internally and externally to change it. Whether it’s working with post-secondary co-op programs, supporting organizations like UP+GO and TechImpact, or focusing on creating an environment with superior work-life balance through flexible hours and a work-from-anywhere policy, we know our work is just beginning as we strive to both increase the number of women working at T4G while simultaneously carving the path for more female leadership.
That there are tremendous opportunities for women to make huge impacts in STEM is undeniable, but these opportunities won’t be fully leveraged if we don’t get more girls interested in STEM in middle school, choosing it in university, and changing the systemic conditions that hold them back once they’re in the workforce.
If we know that the best solutions are the result of diverse and brilliant minds, we also know that we need more women entering the workforce in these exciting roles, growing their skills, and becoming role models and leaders in their field.
A focus on diversity is the right thing to do and it makes good business sense too. The numbers don’t lie.
So as we mark the third International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we talked to six of the women in STEM at T4G who break barriers every day – whether as developers or data scientists – about what got them into their field, challenges they’ve faced, and the advice they have for women considering a career in STEM.
Kavita: My love for math and science. I knew that I was talented in STEM and that boosted my self-confidence. There was no word or term like STEM for technology / computer / internet in late 80s. Computer engineering was new then. Mine is the second batch of graduates from my university.
Lindsay: I’ve always loved science – I love its experimental, rational way of learning about the world. In school, I often enjoyed science more than humanities partly because I found it easier to understand how what we were learning fit into an overall conceptual structure. In my first semester of undergrad, I took a quantum mechanics class because I was enthralled with the idea of learning about the nature of space and time. Later on I switched from theoretical physics to ecology because I wanted to do something more tangible, and I was interested in the relationships between humans and the environments we depend on. I didn’t learn to code until I needed a way to analyze my data more efficiently – and it was so much fun that I wished I’d learned earlier!
Natalie: My STEM role model is my mother, Nancy. She studied Computer Programming long before it was cool! When I told her I was interested in computers, she encouraged me and made sure I had all the equipment I needed to learn with. I didn’t realize there was a lack of women in STEM until my first day of college because at home my gender was never really relevant.
Sarah: I have been lucky to have many people help me throughout my university degree and career. One person I really look up to is Sage Franch. She was a former co-op student at T4G, and I knew her as a fellow student at Dalhousie and co-exec of the Dalhousie Women in Technology Society. She is now starting a new journey as part of The Next, launching a venture and also developing a curriculum on BlockChain development for Lighthouse Labs, formally working as a Tech Evangelist for Microsoft (a career I never knew about before meeting her). She welcomes and embraces opportunities in her career, and in new technologies. She has been a wonderful role model for children and young adults to show them what is possible in a technology career.
Danielle: Every now and then I get that extra bit of disbelief that I’m representing T4G’s technical team… I’m not big on titles or letters, but this space is hot enough right now that legitimacy is hard to demonstrate before you’re actually into the weeds of a problem. Those moments of cognitive dissonance when I don’t meet a client’s expectations for what someone in this space should be like- those moments are hard. Thankfully they are increasingly rare!
Natalie: The tech industry is extremely fast-paced and keeping up with the latest technology is a challenge. Being a female has been a challenge at times, I’ve definitely gotten some weird looks during job interviews. However once I started doing my work, and helping the team with theirs, I’ve always become an accepted and important member of the team.
Lindsay: I love all the logic puzzles, from small ones like how to write a piece of code to larger ones like how to set up a good experiment or how to explain something to someone who doesn’t have the same technical background. I also love learning new algorithms or techniques – it feels amazing when something that had been totally baffling suddenly clicks and makes sense. It’s also fun to work with other people to figure out how to approach challenges – everyone sees a problem differently, and it’s exciting to be able to bounce ideas off each other.
Sarah: I love seeing how each of the small components I make can build a large-scale website that contains thousands of pages. While working at T4G I have been a part of several projects now from the start to finish where we deploy a site live for the public, and to think of how far the site has come from the beginning to the time it is ready for the world to interact with, is incredible.
As T4G’s Vice President of People and Culture, Cathy enables building brilliant solutions to solve both simple and complex problems through attracting, growing and retaining top talent. A champion of leadership and diversity, innovator and life-long learner, Cathy is passionate about leveraging data and technology to create a meaningful impact on our community and economy.
In addition to her work at T4G, Cathy founded a social enterprise, UP+GO, which focuses on mentorship, training and programming that builds MORE authentic, confident, self-assured, and decisive girls and young women who will become our next generation of business, government, STEM, entrepreneurs and social leaders.