We need more women working in STEM

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields have traditionally been male- dominated. However, that is changing. Planning and Scheduling Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Sarah Murphy, outlines what is being done to bring down the barriers for women in STEM
We need more women working in STEM

Planning and Scheduling Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific Sarah Murphy

IT has never been a better time to be a woman in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and the future is looking even brighter.

Traditionally dominated by men, more and more women are stepping up and taking their place in the STEM fields, and they’re getting more support than ever before.

At Thermo Fisher Scientific, we place huge value on diversity and inclusion (D&I), borne out of the belief that diversity in perspective and experience (including gender, age, ethnicity, education, ability…etc) brings more innovation and better problem solving.

We are currently focused on hiring for diversity and increasing the number of women in management roles and we are already ahead of our 2021 target of 34% of women in management roles.

In everything from education to hiring to promotion, old gender stereotypes are breaking down and women are being given the platforms where their talent and abilities can allow them to succeed.

From a young age, girls need more role models – women who are enjoying and excelling in the fields of chemistry or physics, maths or engineering. We need to make the world of STEM a more welcoming place for women.

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO ACCELERATE THE CHANGE?

Employee Advocates – To create an inclusive work environment, there must be trust amongst peers and leadership and opportunities for employees’ voices to be heard. At Thermo Fisher Scientific, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) help to activate D&I strategies, with members fostering awareness, connecting employees and supporting key initiatives.

Our Women’s ERG is specifically focused on fostering the advancement of women and building a corporate culture in which women colleagues are recruited, valued, developed, retained, and promoted globally throughout the company.

Some of the initiatives include, a mentoring programme and buddy system for new female employees, panel discussions and seminars on career development, career planning and habits that hold careers back.

Communication - Conversations on how to improve diversity must happen on a continuous basis. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Organisations should track, measure and share their diversity efforts to ensure employees are aware of steps being made and to get their valuable insights and feedback. One way Thermo Fisher Scientific collected feedback was to partner with WiSTEM UCC, who collaborated on an Instagram takeover on what it is like for women to work at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Hiring - One particular area which organisations should review, as a priority, is the hiring process. At Thermo Fisher, we ensure our job adverts are constructed to appeal to a diverse audience and have software that ensures we are using inclusive language. As well as having gender balanced interview panels, hiring managers are trained to recognise unconscious bias, and Diversity and Inclusion training is part of the site induction and mandatory for all new employees.

Education – Gender stereotypes begin from an early age, and girls need to be encouraged to pursue careers in STEM. At Thermo Fisher, we’re playing our part by inspiring local primary school children in science by providing science kits during Science Week, creating a ‘Reasons to Pursue a career in STEM’ video and a TY work experience programme for secondary schools, and facilitating a range of internships for third level students.

Education shouldn’t stop in school. Internally, education should be provided to employees and leaders of an organisation to make them aware of their unconscious bias and the negative impact this bias can cause.

Build Awareness and Support – By broadcasting the range of diverse career paths and accomplishments of women colleagues, STEM organisations can strengthen inclusion internally as well as externally. In 2019 Thermo Fisher Scientific created the Championing Women in Science issue of ‘Life in the Lab’ magazine. The issue featured women colleagues, all with scientific backgrounds, who are pursuing 12 different careers in STEM.

Further to this, we’ve introduced a buddy system for newly hired female employees, to act as a mentor offering support and championing success.

The benefits of encouraging diversity in the workplace are limitless. For Thermo Fisher Scientific, encouraging women in STEM means incorporating diverse perspectives in scientific research and application, which will ensure innovation is inclusive and treatments are applicable to a greater number of people. Having employees with different backgrounds, ideas and perspectives will unleash your organisation’s growth potential, and allow for new ways of thinking while making a real difference for the people involved.

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