Helping young women into the world of work through STEMinism
5 mins read
A key focus area of our responsible business strategy is to help young people progress towards the world of work.
We already do this through our own business operations and educational software services to thousands of schools across the UK.
However, we know that we can do more to help young people access opportunities and expand their horizons. That’s why we have chosen to partner with Teach First to enable Capita volunteers to help young people from low socio-economic backgrounds progress towards work.
Since the launch of the partnership in 2019, our volunteers have been leading guest teacher lessons and inviting groups of students to our offices throughout the UK. As a tech-enabled company, we acknowledge the gender parity that exists within the industry. We are passionate about helping young people access the breadth of opportunities available by taking a STEM related subject. This is a passion that we share with Teach First and look forward to working on throughout our partnership.
In celebration of women in STEM, we have asked Shelley Gonsalves, Executive Director at Teach First to share her view on why ‘STEMinism’ matters in the classroom and beyond….
“In recent years there’s been a huge shift in the way we speak about gender equality. No longer are we questioning whether the gender gap exists, but how we can close it - for good. This is a huge step forward, because diversity absolutely matters.
Research from McKinsey & Company found that companies that have diverse leadership are more likely to perform better financially). That’s why having a diverse workforce –whether that is based on ethnicity, socio-economic background or indeed gender –is not just a matter of fairness, it’s an economic imperative.
Yet, despite our acknowledgement of the gender gap, we still see a huge disparity across most sectors. When looking specifically at STEM-based careers, only 22% of roles are occupied by women. At management level, this drops to just 13%. And there is absolutely no good reason for this. Girls are now performing just as well as boys across all STEM subjects at school. Yet girls, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are considerably less likely to pursue STEM subjects once they are no longer compulsory.
Why is this happening? It’s a combination of reasons, but boils down to representation –or a lack thereof. So, what better place to address this than in the classroom? The good news is that there are three things we can do right now to start to overcome these historical inequalities and develop the next generation of STEMinists:
- Reward schools that successfully tackle gender stereotypes and increase the proportion of girls pursuing STEM subjects.
- Teach STEM subjects in ways that champion female STEM trailblazers and showcase the diverse range of people who have made major contributions to science. The teachers we spoke to for this paper told us that the way STEM subjects are taught, particularly what and who is emphasised in the curriculum, makes a huge difference.
- Make sure that every school in the country has high-quality, well-supported STEM teachers. To overcome the shortage of STEM teachers, there needs to be more financial incentives for STEM teachers working in schools in disadvantaged communities. This will help get great teachers to where they’re needed most.
If we don’t solve the challenge of teacher shortages, we face a circular problem of generations of young people not gaining the opportunities they need. In the long-term, gender stereotypes must be challenged across all subject areas. This means helping both boys and girls to pursue their talents and interests, without being held back by pre-conceived ideas of the roles they should or should not fit into.
If we don’t change things, we won’t unlock the potential in every child –whatever their background and whatever their gender. But, if we get it right, our entire country’s potential as a STEM force for change can be unleashed.”