How the Top Companies Overcome the Gender Balance Problem in STEM?

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February 12, 2019
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A STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) background is in a high demand today. Lots of companies create numerous work positions of that kind and offer high salaries. However, most of the candidates for technical positions are men, which makes it hard for the companies to reach the gender balance. At the same time, such balance has a significant impact on the productivity of workers. Therefore, top companies do their best to implement strategies and educational programs to achieve it.

Today, most large companies are focused on creating a diversity of workplaces and pay special attention to female employees, trying to create comfortable conditions for them. There are some complexities connected with hiring female technical experts. The main issue is that there is a lack of such professionals on the market. In addition to that, most employees ignore the importance of creating comfortable conditions for female professionals. However, some companies have special strategies to rise above this problem.

How the Top Companies Overcome the Gender Balance Problem in STEM? 1

In this article, we are going to discuss some interviewing and recruiting peculiarities used by HRs from Nokia, Autodesk, and 3M. We have learned these tips from the book Success Stories: Hiring Women in STEM (Glassdoor). Let’s see how the most successful companies attract women and create the fruitful working environment for them.

Conducting unprejudiced interviews

How the Top Companies Overcome the Gender Balance Problem in STEM? 2

Considering the fact that finding female candidates for STEM positions can be challenging, there is no point in making it even harder when it comes to interviews. Companies like Autodesk have a clear understanding that prejudices are something that come into play during the process, especially when it comes to women who aspire to get technical positions. To say the truth, the problem with prejudices may occur even before the interview happens. Job descriptions sometimes have a tone that makes applicants unconfident. When HRs include “must-have” and “nice-to-have” skills sections, they should be aware that women rarely apply for a position if they cannot meet 100% of the requirements. At the same time, men apply even when they meet 60%. When it comes to the interviews, one should take the following steps to eliminate prejudice:

  • Considering the previous achievements more than aspirations, ambitions, and potential;
  • Oftentimes, women understate their success, therefore interviewers should ask them for more details about their activity;
  • An interviewer should adhere to the culture as a global set of values, not his own world view.

Supporting the inclusive environment

How the Top Companies Overcome the Gender Balance Problem in STEM? 3

Whether you are a member of an IT, financial, SEO, or writing company, there is one general rule for all: diversity cannot bring results if you fail to support inclusion. Inclusive practices are extremely important, since every step of your diversity strategy won’t work unless you have them. Women employees are seeking for support when applying for STEM positions because they are highly aware about the gender prejudices that take place in IT companies. Women won’t accept a job offer if they are not sure that they will be treated in a positive way. Even if they do accept it, they will quit very soon unless the company provides a selection of research and communication opportunities.

To overcome this problem and provide female specialists with help and support, 3M Has created a special network called Women’s Leadership Forum. This is a digital environment, where women can collaborate, discuss their problems, and find collective solutions. Such projects are especially important for young professionals, who need someone experienced to help or guide them. 3M treats the inclusion of the employees as the first priority, therefore they have launched one more initiative – “I’m in”. These are engagement and encouraging platforms that help women take an active part in the work of an entire company and be aware of all the aspects of related projects.

Let the audience know about your plans

The small number of female STEM professionals is not a problem you can solve immediately. Companies need to take long-term actions and work on the issue persistently. To keep up with those goals that don’t bring any fast results, some companies announce their plans to the wide audience to show their high awareness about the issue. When it comes to female STEM candidates, companies should make up their plans and state them clearly.

Nokia a is a good example here. They have a gender-balance strategy for the next 5 years. This strategy includes the training programs for HR, managers, and team leaders created to increase their awareness about the problem as a whole and to educate them better. This is a very important step and successful companies do realize that.

Nokia’s goal is to increase the number of STEM women in their company, and they have already trained more than 4000 managers on gender balance. The campaign started in 2016 and Nokia has managed to make the amount of women in their offices grow for 25%. Not only they implement changes in their own environment, but also try to spread the idea of gender equality at the workplace wider. Recently, Nokia’s CEO made a deal with UNESCO ensuring that Nokia will support STEM female candidates in all ways, promoting equality and leadership on the public level. Also, Nokia cooperates with the Greenlight for Girls initiative that empowers girls and women in technology and computer science.

As you can see, there are many cultural and social challenges connected with hiring women in scientific and technological fields. Sometimes, they are about bias, sometimes they are connected with a lack of communication. The experiences of large companies prove that these are the issues that can only be overcome when applying significant efforts. They work to train the company members, increasing their awareness. They provide employees with networks and platforms they can join to communicate. They try to reduce the elements of prejudice in the hiring and interviewing process. Of course, none of these strategies will bring the results immediately, but they prove to be effective in the long run. Let 3M, Nokia, and Autodesk become examples for all of us!

Meet the Author: Jennifer Pauli

How the Top Companies Overcome the Gender Balance Problem in STEM? 5

Jennifer graduated from Corvinus School of Management and finished the faculty of Journalism at the Corvinus University of Budapest. Currently, she is an editor, business writer, and copywriter, working with well-known companies, blogs, and personalities. Follow her on Twitter, G+ and read the personal blog

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