According to Accenture, the proportion of women to men in tech roles has declined over the past 35 years and half of the young women who go into tech drop out by the age of 35.
Unfortunately, this gender gap has been exacerbated by the pandemic. School closures and stretched healthcare systems have forced many women – who still bear the brunt of domestic responsibilities – to choose between family and career.
As part of Techcouver’s International Women’s Day coverage last week, Jennifer Flanagan wrote about how we can choose to challenge gender inequality in tech and suggested that it starts with engaging girls and young women early and often.
Youth, especially those facing societal barriers such as girls and young women, need to be supported in and outside of school to build the necessary skills to lead and thrive in the future workforce. We need more programs, specifically designed for girls and young women that provide safe spaces to design, build, experiment and explore, and apply the technical skills learned in the classroom to real-world solutions.
That support can be seen with a new initiative called STEM Sorority.
Created in October 2020 and led by Eric Hamber Secondary students Jenny Li, Judy Li and Kaitlyn Jung, STEM Sorority is a club that offer girls a comfortable and supportive environment to explore their passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
“Our goal is to encourage more girls to pursue a career in STEM and break down gender barriers in the field by offering them various engaging and education resources. We also want to build an inter-school community where high school and elementary school girls can discover and delve into their interests in STEM while interacting with a diverse group of other girls”.
With so much social and academic isolation caused by the pandemic, and with increased gender diversity widely seen as a way to bridge the talent gap in BC’s tech sector, this inclusive, stereotype-busting program suits the IWD 2021 theme of “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” to a T.
With support from the BC Tech Association, STEM Sorority is extending its reach far beyond its Eric Hamber Secondary roots. Using a fun and innovative “Escape Room” format, the Foundation is about to expand to five other schools where it aims to reach more than 300 students.