Getting more women involved in STEM requires all parties to buy in

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Next week Monday, 8th March, is International Women’s Day. We also recently saw the 2020 Matric exam results released for SA, where the performance in STEM subjects dipped across the board. While we can attribute the decrease to the chaotic year that COVID-19 wrought, the question remains as to how we can get more women into STEM-related fields in the coming years?

This is one of the questions we posed to SYSPRO chief sales and marketing officer, Sandra Fraga, who recently spoke to us about the efforts that she and her company are making in this regard. Fraga also unpacked some of the lessons she has learned along the way to her current role, and offered up some sage advise to young women interested in STEM careers but, for whatever reason, have been unable to pursue them.

One of the reasons why getting more women involved in STEM at an early age, apart from future-proofing the country’s workforce, is the fact that the nature of work itself is in a phase of change.

“With the rise of new digital jobs and new transformative business models, an early introduction to STEM subjects is critical in the development of the next generation of critical thinkers, innovators and Digital Transformation gurus,” stresses Fraga.

“Ongoing education and training initiatives in these disciplines will be vital for businesses to remain relevant and thrive in the future. This is how businesses can tackle the digital transformation challenge head-on so they can create real-world impact,” she emphasises.

A combined effort

As such, it is becoming more crucial than ever than more is done to help young women pursue opportunities in these fields.

Citing a recent PwC report, Fraga highlights the fact that only 19 percent of tech-related jobs at the top 10 global tech companies are held by women, perfectly illustrating the huge disparity that exists to the acceptance and integration of men and women in the world of technology.

“It is therefore up to the industry to uplift women, create mentorship programs and tackle stereotypes head-on. I fundamentally believe that women have an integral role to play in STEM and I am committed to uplifting women to be successful in these disciplines,” she enthuses.

Looking closer at the environment that SYSPRO is aiming to create, Fraga says that, “Women occupy various positions at all levels of the organisation. As a business, we have created learning journeys covering various roles and levels of work, allowing us to empower women to grow and develop. This is aligned to their current and future aspirations.”

“To do this, we take a multi-pronged approach to development, which includes structured development plans per employee, self-development opportunities and coaching and mentoring – allowing each individual to take ownership and accountability of their development while being supported by the business. Our belief is that women should progress and develop through their career in their own time,” she adds.

Never falter

As far as roles she’d like to see more women occupy in future, Fraga lists software developers or data analysts, along with those at the managerial level. I would like to see women holding more leadership positions within the C-Suite. I was recently appointed as Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at SYSPRO and feel that female representation within an executive committee is pivotal to a business,” says Fraga.

Again, highlighting the steps that her own organisation is taking, Fraga explains that SYSPRO ensures that 50 percent of its interns are female.

“During the internship we focus on creating well rounded, knowledgeable individuals who are ready to join the workforce with the required knowledge of SYSPRO ERP.  SYSPRO’s intent is to absorb all the interns at the end of the program,” she adds.

While a great example of a woman who has made it in a male dominated, Fraga is cognisant of the fact that not all young women are encouraged to pursue a career in STEM despite showing a keen interest. To those young women, she offers up five pieces of advice:

  • “Be authentic and don’t compromise 
  • Don’t underestimate the value of networking
  • Embrace the unique journey of woman in the workplace
  • Find a mentor that can help guide your career and provide you honest and tangible feedback
  • Know the power of choice and be clear on what you do want to do and what you don’t.”

“As a champion for the advancement of women in the workplace, I am passionate about developing young talent and guiding them through their career by offering practical advice on how to be successful in the work environment,” she concludes.

This International Women’s Day, think about what steps you’re taking within your own organisation to make women a key part of the business, and not just to make up the numbers.

[Image – Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.

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