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Nov 24 2015

We have a lot more work to do enabling women into STEM jobs

This blog is by Kathrin Buvac, Chief Strategy Officer at Nokia Networks.@kathrinbuvac

I’m happy to announce Nokia’s support for a new initiative aimed at enabling more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines.

I note, however, that we’re announcing this support amid new research released today showing that, by some key metrics, we’re heading in the wrong direction.

Results from the 2015 international survey Yfactor reveal that, among other things, the proportion of women as STEM graduates globally has grown lamentably slow at just 4 percentage points over the past 10 years to reach 34%. At that slow pace, 40 years would be needed for women to reach STEM-graduate parity with men.

Further, according to the new study, in Western Europe and the US, the proportion of women graduating in STEM disciplines has hit a wall and actually stopped at 32% of the overall proportion in those areas over the past decade.

The Yfactor study, based on over 2,800 respondents from 83 countries, was carried out by Global Contact, a research and consultancy company, in conjunction with several other entities, including Orange, Airbus, the OECD and UNESCO.

There are various reasons behind the worrying results from the Yfactor study, including inadequate support structures, but the Yfactor results echo the findings of other recent reports that have spotlighted the challenges of keeping the momentum going in bringing more women into STEM jobs.

Call to action

Through the Yfactor work, we are redoubling our efforts with a fresh call for action to business and political leaders around the world to ACTWISE.

What this means is the following: A is for Acting at work, and we’re recommending stronger implementation of gender-balanced practices and the encouragement of diverse teams within organizations; C is for Communicating to all stakeholders and being more effective, for instance, in publicizing STEM education campaigns so that women are more aware of the opportunities that STEM professions offer; and T is for Tracking results at a global level, as more detailed cross-national and comparable statistics are required to monitor, evaluate and design evidenced-based public policies.

This new call to action is not just motivated on a moral basis. As the Yfactor report makes clear, there are strong economic arguments for industry and governments to do a better job at providing the enabling conditions, such as flexible work practices, for women to enter STEM professions.

Economic arguments

There has been no shortage of evidence in recent years demonstrating that companies with a greater proportion of talented and skilled women in their ranks and at the management level deliver better results than companies that fail to do this.

At Nokia, we are living up to the support we provide in wanting to see more talented women enter STEM professions and management positons. According to Nokia’s 2014 annual report, 13% of senior management positions at Nokia were held by women; and, no doubt, there is more progress that can be achieved.

For sure, progress is being made more generally. As the Yfactor report shows, in Asia and Eastern Europe, the number of women in STEM jobs continues to rise on average in those regions and now surpasses Western world levels.

In coming weeks, I will continue the dialogue with my counterparts at the Yfactor study partnering companies to discuss what new detailed actions we should embrace as an industry.

Our vision is to expand the human possibilities of technology. We build technology that people with very diverse backgrounds use, and I truly believe that we all want our company make-up to be a reflection of the very same diversity of people who use our technology. We have a long way to go.

Please have a look at the new Yfactor study and help raise awareness of this important subject through your own social networking channels.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #networksperform #maketechhuman #Actwise #ICTgirls #womenintech.

About Kathrin Buvac

As the company's chief strategist, Kathrin helps shape Nokia Networks' vision and strategy working with senior leaders, customers and analysts worldwide. In addition to leading the company's overall efforts in the Internet of Things, she's also embraced the role of "goodwill ambassador" of making tech human.

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