Why PR can play a big role in closing the gender gap in STEM

25/11/2016

Helena Shadbolt

Why PR can play a big role in closing the gender gap in STEM

Recent research by recruitment firm Hired found that women in the UK technology industry are paid on average 9% less than their male counterparts.  And what’s more, they’ll effectively be working for free until the end of the year, as the Fawcett Society highlighted on Equal Pay Day earlier this month.

With there already being a lack of women in tech, statistics like these are far from encouraging for the next generation of girls considering a career in STEM. So what can be done to convince them that a STEM career is worth pursuing? 

Women make up just 26% of the tech industry. And it’s easy to blame schools, universities and companies for that disheartening statistic. However, we all have a responsibility to increase the flow of female talent into the industry, and perhaps the best way of doing that is by celebrating the achievements of women already working in tech.

This is where PR is a powerful tool. We should be raising the profile of leading women in STEM, not just through the media but by engaging with the younger generation of girls through the channels they use the most.

Companies and gender diversity initiatives in the sector, schools and universities should be using the likes of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to showcase the achievements of women in the sector and tell their stories. Stories that the younger generation can relate to and be inspired by.

Microsoft, for example, is one technology company that is using Instagram to promote women at the firm and show how they have achieved their goals against all odds. Using social media to make the industry appear more human gives young girls tangible role-models to look up to and the confidence that they can achieve the same success.

One organisation that is all about helping young girls achieve their dreams is Modern Muse, a not-for-profit social enterprise designed to inspire and engage the next generation of female business leaders. Its purpose is to help young girls to realise the breadth of opportunity out there and introduce them to role models who demonstrate that achieving success in the workplace is attainable to anyone.

Modern Muse is making it a priority to encourage women working in engineering roles and technology businesses to become one of these role-models so that girls get to see just how exciting, innovative and creative those careers can be. Redleaf is working with Modern Muse to help raise the company’s profile and support it on its mission to encourage girls to realise the range of opportunities open to them.

Modern Muse is just one of the many organisations and initiatives focused on improving gender diversity in STEM. Women’s magazines and news outlets are becoming increasingly vocal about the issue, with the likes of Elle and Glamour publishing annual lists profiling leading women in tech, while Huffington Post even has its own “women in tech” section. And there are awards too. The Women in IT Awards, which takes place in January next year, is the world's largest event dedicated to tackling the technology industry's gender imbalance and aims to showcase the achievements and innovation of women in the industry to encourage more girls and women to see technology as the place to be.

While progress is certainly being made, we’re a way off from reaching the stage where statistics on the gender pay gap don’t exist. Girls’ perceptions of careers in STEM need to be changed. And PR can play a big role in helping organisations, universities and schools to do that. 

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