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Inspiring young girls to pursue a career in STEM

Catherine Stewart works in IT in our London offices and she’s passionate about gender equality. Here she tells her story about what inspired her to volunteer to help young girls understand the opportunities they have in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and the impact she’s made so far.

Girls will be girls?

I’ve worked in technology for 25 years and women are still underrepresented in the industry. I was looking at my 11-year-old daughter one day and realised that unless something changes, she too faces a future where there are ‘jobs for the boys’ and yet another generation of women will earn less than men.

I wanted to do something about it. Our Managing Partner for Talent at Deloitte is Emma Codd and she’s made clear that she believes STEM holds the key to addressing the gender pay gap. Only 9 per cent of the girls who take STEM subjects at GCSE will go on to qualify in this area and 94 per cent of boys study core STEM subjects at 16, compared with 35 per cent of girls. Therefore, encouraging girls into STEM careers will be vital both to improving the gender divide in STEM, and solving the skills shortage that will be a barrier to economic growth in the UK.

With the right training

"I went along to the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) conference, where Professor Averil MacDonald created a workshop called ‘People like me’ (PLM). It addressed the lack of girls in STEM by showing them that women with similar personality traits and aptitudes to them are happy and successful working in STEM. The workshop inspired me to train as a PLM ambassador, and I started delivering workshops to Deloitte Access schools in April 2017.

I found that inspiring the girls can still be a challenge as many of the most interesting and well-paid jobs are ones they know nothing about. We all know what a teacher does, but what about a solutions architect? So, I point out that the job I do at Deloitte was not invented when I left school and the pace of innovation means that the same will apply to them. Some 65 per cent of future STEM jobs don’t even exist yet!

It became clear to me that we needed more PLM ambassadors to make a bigger impact, so I got in touch with our One Million Futures team and Deloitte’s Women in Technology network (WiT) and together we encouraged 16 WiT members to become PLM ambassadors.

Since then, 350 girls have participated in the workshops. They will continue to run in 2018 and, while there is still a long way to go to address the gender divide in STEM, we're making progress one girl at a time.

My favourite moment? After one workshop, I was given a handwritten note saying 'you inspired me to be an engineer'."

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