By Gillian Shapiro, Managing Director, Shapiro Consulting Ltd
Is there a difference in the relationship that my son aged 5 and my daughter aged 10 have with technology? They both, of course, love to play games on the computer and Moshi Monsters are the big craze at the moment. But it is my daughter that is leading the way in all of this. Her interest in games, writing stories, searching on-line ―albeit for pictures of cute puppies― is what is firing up his urge to also get on-line. He is following her, guided by her, learning from her. She is his role model.
Role models for women in technology, science and engineering are, of course, incredibly important. Because they are few in number, they send out a strong message that it is possible for women to excel in this field. Would it have made a difference if Steve Jobs had been a woman? Yes! How could having a woman as the head of such a major innovative organisation, not make a positive difference. The value of Stevie Jobs as a role model is enormous.
«Role models for women in technology, science and engineering are incredibly important. Because they are few in number, they send out a strong message that it is possible for women to excel in this field»
But it wasn't Stevie, it was Steve. And we know that, statistically speaking, my son is unlikely to follow female role models into technology and my daughter is unlikely to be one. So where and why does it all go so wrong?
My question, of course, is not new. It has been asked by many researchers and policy makers for many years. The barriers and causes of few women entering into and developing careers in science, engineering and technology jobs cited are repeated, study after study. Some of the work to address the barriers and causes is innovative and impactful. But overall the change achieved is slow and patchy.
«The mere hint of a threat of a quota for women on Boards in the UK has led to a movement of leaders intent on change»
What will make the step change needed to bridge the female gender gap in science, engineering and technology? Does it need to be a Stevie Jobs?
The mere hint of a threat of a quota for women on Boards in the UK has led to a movement of leaders intent on change. After years of very little change in the representation of women on Boards, following the Lord Davies Review and recommendation for at least 25% of Board positions to be occupied by women, their representation in FTSE 100 companies has increased from 12.5% to 16.7% in a year.
What would motivate the Chairmen, the CEOs and other leaders, male and female, working in technology jobs, the media and education from being bold and bringing their power, influence, experience and leadership to bear in changing once and for all this imbalance?