The shortage of women entrepreneurs and women in ICT is a common issue present in many countries. Young women are not encouraged enough to pursue careers in science,
technology, engineering and math (STEM). The issue presents itself during girls’ young developing years, where the lack of role models, confidence in gender equality within their discipline, mentors, hands-on experience and real-life applications all play major roles in steering them away from STEM careers.
Role Models Wanted
Hence why we were pleased to host the Talented Women in ICT event at the MIC Brussels with the Wonderful Women Community last October 25th. The WoWo Community creates events and opportunities for women to share their experiences, achievements and make valuable connections with their female counterparts in Brussels with the goal of fostering confidence and motivation amongst them. Throughout one evening, five inspiring women in ICT took turns speaking about their achievements, hardships and advice with some much needed inspiration and motivation for women at all stages of their journeys. The reason behind the need for such events and initiatives is simple: we need more visible female entrepreneurs and ICT role models to counter the effects of social expectations and gender stereotypes that discourage young women from pursuing certain careers and ideas.
The main factor attributed to there being less women entrepreneurs and women in ICT is the lack of female role models that young girls can look up to and relate to. Among the five speakers at the WoWo event, was the MIC Brussels’ Operational Director, Cécile Jabaudon, who highlighted the importance of young girls having visible role models. “If you can see it, you can be it” she quotes. Having role models during your developing years plays a big part in what you think you are able to accomplish and the confidence you have in yourself to succeed in approaching your career path.
In Belgium, only 5% of women are behind the launching or management of young enterprises, putting Belgium (equal with Hungary and Spain) in the 14th position of female entrepreneurial activity in the EU. With the world becoming more and more digital before our eyes, we must be conscious of the many implications and the impact that this transformation has across global job markets. Notably, the increased need for skilled IT workers and the decreasing supply. Europe could face a shortage of up to 900,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020 according to the European Commission.
Although there is already a lack of specialized STEM workers present, there is an even greater discrepancy between men and women who pursue these fields. In the EU, less than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are women and in the Brussels Capital Region, only a third of the STEM graduates are female. With about half of the population being female, this issue is already impacting the current job market and will no doubt continue to affect the future job market.
Young European girls initially gain interest in STEM between the ages of 11 and 12, but their interest level drops around the age of 15 to 16 years old, with only a small chance to regain it. This means that there is a narrow four-year window of opportunity to encourage and feed young girls’ curiosity and passion for STEM subjects. With such a small window of opportunity before interest starts to wane, it’s vital for teachers and parents to actively encourage any girl with an early interest in STEM.