“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it”: some thoughts on Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in UK IT, via West Bengal

9 Oct 2017

Anouska Streets, Head of Engineering

When it comes to motivating young women, I believe in leading by example. It shouldn’t be underestimated how important the visibility of female leaders and representation in STEM is for shaping the attitudes and ambitions of young women.

Thinking about this idea recently, I came across a great Huffington Post story about research into attitudes on education and achievement among communities in the West Bengal area of India. It’s from back in 2012, but the research is still so resonant. Since 1993, West Bengal has had quotas mandating the inclusion of female politicians in local government. Families with children ages 11 to 15 in 495 villages were surveyed and their responses compared to those from families in villages without any female political representation.

The results were astounding. In areas with long-serving female leaders in local government, the gender gap in teenagers’ educational aspirations disappeared, due to the fact that girls had set higher goals for themselves. Parents were also 25 per cent more likely to report having more ambitious education goals for their daughters, significantly narrowing the gender gap. This can be credited to the role-model effect.

Visible representation matters. When it comes to motivating young women, business needs to be doing more to showcase and champion the women that are already succeeding in their fields, because changing perceptions and giving hope can have an impact on reality.

Earlier this week, Computer Weekly published its sixth ‘Most Influential Women in UK IT’ list, showcasing 50 of the top women in the UK technology industry. The list also included some of the top role models in the finance and fintech sector, including:

Industry lists like these are a good way to inspire our female talent in the UK. It is essential to continue the investment at the grassroots level to increase girls’ engagement in STEM, but we must also take an active role in committing to championing the women that are already succeeding in the sector. If young women see more prominent female role models, maybe we’ll start to see more of them choosing a career in STEM.

 

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If you would like to hear more from Anouska you can follow her on Twitter and listen to her on the latest Breaking Banks podcast.

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