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A new report has revealed that two-thirds of people feel they are underqualified to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The report, released by IBM, interviewed more than 14,000 job seekers and students wishing to change careers located across 13 different countries, finding that 61 per cent did not believe they were qualified enough for STEM jobs.
Respondents named the cost of training to be the biggest barrier to entry into the industry, with many citing concerns that career options may not be available to them because of this.
40 per cent of respondents also said they simply did not know where to start with developing the skills needed for STEM careers, stating that their education did not provide them with the professional and technical knowledge required in the space.
in response to these findings, Justina Nixon-Saintil, Chief Impact Officer at IBM said: "there are many misconceptions about what's needed to pursue a rewarding and lucrative career in today's rapidly advancing workplace."
“This is why we must raise awareness of the breadth of science and technology roles that exist across industries,” she added.
Sheila Flavell CBE, Chief Operating Officer for FDM Group, said that the education sector must work to remove the misconceptions in stem careers, improving education to bridge the worsening digital skills gap.
“The digital skills gap is holding back the nation from economic recovery and business growth, and, as the nation’s digital transformation accelerates, the skills gap remains a prevailing issue that cannot be ignored.”
The absence of women in STEM jobs
IBM’S findings come after a recent Tech Nation study found that women make up just over a quarter of the current UK tech workforce.
Just 9 per cent of the 2071 C-Suite leaders in tech companies analysed as a part of the survey were women, with only 3 per cent of Chief Technology Officers or technical director roles being held by women.
We spoke to Cyndi Festa, Head of Data Sources at Encompass Corporation, about the lack of representation of women within the tech sector.
“There is so much potential within STEM and, as a woman working in technology, I know the opportunities these careers can bring," Ms Festa said.
“We need to be positive and talk about the success stories to really embrace women in the industry so those who want and are able, to can reach these leadership positions. Just because you are good at something doesn't mean you would make a good leader, and, conversely, just because your title doesn't include 'C' doesn't mean you aren't performing and acting like a leader – leadership has nothing to do with the org chart.
When I went to school, women were somewhat discouraged from STEM but the tide is turning. Focusing solely on these admittedly low figures just creates a further barrier for women looking to make that step up. We need to be positive and talk about the success stories to really embrace women in the industry so those who want and are able, to can reach these leadership positions. As we evolve in leadership, I believe we will see a more diverse group of people in key positions."
Creating a diverse tech workforce
Despite the disconnect between understanding and entry into science and technology job roles, half of the respondents said they were still interested in pursuing a STEM-related job.
Two-thirds of the people asked also had a positive outlook on the future of the industry, believing that the number of STEM jobs would increase in the next decade.
With the potential of the industry clear, IBM notes that the future of the industry will depend on effective training, which will increase the opportunities and qualifications needed to enter the space to create a more diverse workforce.
"The underrepresentation of Black women in STEM is due not to a lack of interest or competency, but instead is owed to the tendency of the American education system to disengage, under-educate, and underutilize women of color at all levels of the academic pipeline"
— Dr Eden Tanner (@EdenTanner) May 19, 2022
"Technology training can have a transformational effect on a person's life. “This is why we must raise awareness of the breadth of science and technology roles that exist across industries, Nixon-Saintil said.
Ms Festa echoed her belief in this approach as a way forward. She told EM360 that business leads and senior management must take responsibility for this training to build a diverse workforce.
“To really cultivate a positive, diverse culture you need to listen to everyone and support team members - regardless of their backgrounds or needs - to develop, be their best, and help them to deliver against organisational objectives,” she said.
“It's about leaders pulling on all levers to deliver objectives, while listening to those around them and helping them to reach their potential, no matter what that means for them.”
86 per cent of those who have earned a digital credential told researchers that it helped them achieve their professional goals, the study noted.