Despite the fact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has seen tech careers become the most in-demand—with the average job growth of 13% trumping other occupations—women are still the minority in the field. For instance, in the United States, where there are some of the highest levels of STEM-related employment and education, women remain underrepresented. Research conducted regularly since 2000 has shown that women only account for 25% of all professionals in computer-related occupations (Pew Research Center, 2021). Of this modest population, an even smaller number of professionals are people of color. Sadly, this is a pattern that we can see around the world. In regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and MENA—where gender biases make it difficult for women to study—these statistics are just as pronounced. As of 2020, reports indicate that most women in this region drop out of STEM courses or choose not to pursue it due to gender biases. While for some, the lack of women in STEM represents an equality issue. In reality, it’s so much more. Experts, for decades, have espoused that more women in STEM is the key to solving many of the contemporary world’s dilemmas. From children’s health to better infrastructure security, here are some of the most critical ways that more women in STEM can help our planet:
The surge of data breaches can be stemmed Cyberattacks have increased dramatically. Evidence even suggests that over 4,000 attacks occur daily. These attacks have gotten so sophisticated and insidious, that AXA analysts warn these can result in the loss of control of critical equipment and warning systems. These, once compromised, can result in catastrophic damage to human health and the environment. Just last year, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) was hacked. This resulted in the loss of over 4,000 files, that included relevant data for flooding forecasting. To address the rise in data breaches and attacks, thousands of cybersecurity posts have opened. As of 2021, unfulfilled cybersecurity jobs is estimated to be at 3.5 million in 2021. This leaves a lot of room for many attacks to go unhindered (Cybercrime Magazine, 2019). Inversely, if we had more women in STEM, this gap could be effectively filled as there was a 9% increase in the number women in cybersecurity roles between 2013 and 2019. Considering that 59.5% of all college students are women, if even a small percentage of these women are encouraged to enter cybersecurity programs, that could help assuage the international data vulnerability (Maryville University, 2022). Cybersecurity courses now teach both offensive and defensive skills in physical and online classrooms. This means graduates are much more capable of upgrading existing infrastructures and battling outside attacks. Among women graduates, these skills can be heightened as studies show that female cybersecurity professionals are more adept at selecting secure software and providing internal training. A notable example of this initiative can be seen in India, where the CyberShiksaa program encourages women to enter STEM and pursue cybersecurity professions.
Climate change initiatives will be achieved faster Given that the IPCC has declared a “code red” for humanity, global leaders are turning their attention towards climate change efforts. At the top of many green initiatives is to cut down emissions by at least 55% by 2030. For many, the quickest way to achieve these goals is with the help of technology. For instance, artificial intelligence solutions in the realm of green-tech are designed to offer smart solutions to cut down massive transport emissions. In Ireland, projections have found that a widespread AI rollout in transportation can cut down Dublin emissions by 51% in the next eight years. That said, to satisfy the mainstream tech demands, the green-tech industry needs more hands. Millions of women are virtually untapped resources. If tapped, they could hasten the development and production of climate change-focused tech. As highlighted during the COP26 in Glasgow, educating young girls in social sciences and the sciences can drive innovation in green technologies (The Conversation, 2021). Interestingly, even before a woman enters the workforce, she can already positively affect climate change initiatives just by getting an education. Evidence suggests that for every additional year of education that a woman receives, her country’s climate change preparedness increases significantly. This is evident in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where 80% of all those affected by climate change are women and children. Spearheaded by the African governments, the Regional Scholarship Innovation Fund aims to support the training of women in advanced STEM skills. This is expected to reduce the area’s climate change vulnerability and improve the region’s green tech growth. In closing, there’s no one sure-fire solution to our planet’s most pressing issues. However, by addressing the gender gap in STEM, we can increase the number of brilliant and empowered problem-solvers who can help the next generation. Call to Action
Links: 1. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/04/01/stem-jobs-see-uneven-progress-in-increasing-gender-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/