TODAY is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Ada, the daughter of the poet Lord Byron and his mathematics-loving wife Annabella Milbanke, showed her gift for mathematics at an early age introducing many computer concepts in the 19th century. However, nearly 150 years since her death, Ada’s legacy reminds us of the work still to be done to create access to more females in STEM-related fields.
According to 2019 UK Government data, women make up 24% of the core-STEM workforce. While this figure is rising, albeit slowly, in some STEM sectors, it appears to be flat-lining in technology where females account for just 17% of the workforce.
Here in Scotland there are a number of other bodies seeking to address this gender imbalance, including the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), an internationally renowned science-focused organisation currently run by a female CEO which has significantly increased its number of female Fellows over recent years.
Meanwhile the Scottish Government set up a taskforce earlier this year to tackle gender stereotyping in schools which aims to drive ‘bold and far-reaching’ actions including ensuring greater gender equality in key professions.
Organisations like ours are also seeking to affect positive change. Through our annual AccelerateHER Awards programme for female company founders, we have now introduced four specific categories – MedTech and Science; FinTech and Cyber Security; CleanTech and Climate; and Disruptive Innovation – all of which are STEM-focused.
Women leading these types of companies not only demonstrate the potential to thrive in these sectors, they also play an important role as inspirational mentors to younger girls who with a talent in STEM-related subjects.
Encouraging more established businesswomen to become investors is another key part of the STEM equation. We’ve seen this phenomena in the US where females now account for more than 25% of its business angel investment community. They has created a ripple effect where a corresponding percentage of angel-backed companies are those led by a woman.
Ada Lovelace’s legacy is more important today than ever as STEM-related industries are now essential to our economic future, most likely to create jobs and develop new, world class companies.
Business, educators and governments must ensure they continue to find ways of attracting more women into these fields. This will not only deliver greater equality in Scotland but will also help ensure we capitalise on the economic opportunities of the future.
Jackie Waring, CEO at Investing Women