The United Nations reports that women represent only 22% of all professionals in cutting-edge fields such as artificial intelligence, computer science, and engineering, which are a few of the highest-earning Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) occupations. And while a typical STEM worker earns two-thirds more than those employed in other fields, these jobs employ the lowest percentages of female workers.
The gap starts in education: according to a study conducted in 2020 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 28% of engineering graduates in the US, and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics are women. Additionally, in research areas, while women represent 33.3% of all researchers, they account for only 12% of the members of national science academies.
The American Association of University Women lists the key factors perpetuating gender STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) gaps – all of which have a cultural background:
- Gender Stereotypes: not only STEM fields are viewed as masculine, but girls’ math abilities are often underestimated by teachers and parents
- Male-Dominated Fields: society perpetuates the image that STEM fields are inflexible, exclusionary, male-dominated environments, not supportive of or attractive to women
- Not Many Role Models: very few are the female scientists and engineers to inspire girls to pursue a STEM career
- Math Anxiety: Teachers, who are predominantly women, often have math anxiety which they tend to pass onto girls, they habitually grade girls harder for the same work, and assume they need to strive harder to achieve the same level as boys.
Offering girls and women the support and confidence to develop their math and science skills is the first step towards closing the STEM gap.
Opening Wider Avenues for Women to Shine
In September 2021, TP Digital launched its first ever Datathon, a competition to stimulate an analytics mindset in the company. With more than 600 projects submitted worldwide, the global finals were held in December, awarding a joint project between a team from Teleperformance in the APAC and CEMEA.
In Datathon’s global final, four out of the 16 contestants were women. Among mentors, the ratio was two out of six. Even though men outnumbered women four to one among contestants and three to one among mentors, female participation at the competition was still impressive, if we consider women’s typical presence in STEM areas.
When Nathalie Gillio, HR Employee Relations Manager at Teleperformance in Greece, heard about the Datathon competition, she saw an opportunity to make impactful ideas a reality. Not having a math-oriented background was not an obstacle: “I felt that participating in this competition would help make progress with our retention efforts,” she reports, “while getting the opportunity to learn how we can use data to move from descriptive to predictive analytics.”
Gillio’s dedication paid off. Her team, representing the CEMEA region, shared the first-place award with their APAC partners. Not having an analytics background was a challenge, but that was overcome with the help of the mentors who “were able to share their knowledge and the methodology in understandable terms. Knowing what can be done opens your horizon and more ideas come up.”
Rupanjana Chakravarty, Senior Data Analyst for TP Digital in India and one of the mentors of the CEMEA/APAC joint team that won the Datathon competition, elaborates the importance of exposing young girls to STEM fields and encourages those who are interested to follow their hearts and minds. “Correcting the negative perceptions that girls develop at a young age can lead them to embrace math and science when they reach high school, rather than avoid the subjects,” Chakravarty says.
Another mentor for the first-place winner, Corrine Lim, advocates that differential treatment of men and women in STEM classes should be abolished. Corrine, who is a Data Analyst for Teleperformance in Malaysia, reinforces the importance of receiving support and incentive: “When I was a kid, I was not confident back in my school days. My primary school teacher wrote me a letter and encouraged me to take a leap of faith, face the challenges I had, and be confident in myself. After so many years, I still remember her lines in the letter.”
Teleperformance joins the whole world in observing International Day of Women and Girls in Science this February 11. Together, let us create welcoming and fairer spaces for women and girls in science to participate, change, innovate, and shine. Click here to learn more about Teleperformance’s commitment to diversity and equity and our TP Women program.