DCMS blog

From one STEM – a field of dreams can be achieved

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Nikki Yates

General Manager of GSK UK and a member of the Women’s Business Council (WBC)

I’m the General Manager of GSK UK and a member of the Women’s Business Council (WBC). This led me on a journey to New York a couple of weeks ago for the UN’s 58th Session for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to represent both the WBC and GSK. It was my first time working with both the UN and CSW and was a great opportunity. The event was to showcase Women in STEM (Science, Maths, Engineering and Maths).

It was my first time working with both the UN and CSW and was a great opportunity. The event was to showcase Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Also at the event was the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Women and Equalities Maria Miller and representatives of the Tanzanian government; Anna Tayari Maembe, the Permanent Secretary of the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania. The event was moderated by Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO. The theme of our event was ‘Good for Equalities, Good for the Economy; Getting Girls into STEM’ and aimed to highlight what the UK and Tanzania are doing to increase participation for girls and secure the required skills for a global labour market in the 21st Century.
The event was a huge success with very positive feedback from the delegates as well as several parliamentarians from the UK, Burkino-Faso, Bermuda, Rwanda and Tanzania. The room was completely full and we sadly had to turn people away. Lots of great questions were asked and we received some great comments which resulted in a follow up event request for the UN and UNESCO to take forward. That’s a move in the right direction for STEM, catalysed by women and good policy, and creating the right environment for the next generation of girls in STEM.
And the interest didn’t stop there; I also did a few interviews for Radio5 Live, the Telegraph and MSN:
Radio 5 Live. Please feel free to listen via BBC On Demand– my interview starts at 12:00 (05.12am)
The quest for economic participation interventions needs to start in schools. Girls currently outperform boys at GCSE but are much less likely to choose STEM subjects for higher education, let alone a career in STEM. This has resulted in only 13% of all STEM jobs being occupied by women in the UK. Yet there are 2.4 million women in the UK who are not working but want to work, and a further 1.3 million women who want to work more hours. STEM careers are an excellent place for us to start redressing the balance and the work of the WBC in raising girl’s aspirations is a key part of our messaging.
As the only STEM member of the WBC, it’s my endeavour to showcase the wonderful opportunities for young people in STEM and improve the diversity of our talent pipelines into STEM careers. One example is the WBC’s work with Northfleet School for Girls who were recently featured in a news science article by the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones on their computer coding activity. The woman on the front of the piece is Head of IT – and she designed the school’s coding programme. Another speaker in the VT works in fashion and trained as an engineer and uses both her skills in running her fashion business. We need more role models like them to showcase their careers.
The WBC are also working with schools and parents. They are the most important influencing agents on girls’ career choices, but often lack the knowledge and resources to do this effectively. There is more the WBC can do here to point parents in the direction of clear, practical advice about educational and career choices and we want to be able to work with all schools to champion these messages.
It’s also about showcasing what we do at GSK; for example we start our Science interventions with girls and boys aged 11-14 and have 40 STEM education programmes globally. We have a dedicated twitter account @GSKScience, website resources such as http://www.scientistsinsport.com/ with over 19000 visitors and are active participants in initiatives such as http://industrialcadets.org.uk/.
As well as this GSK staff of Apprentices, Graduates and Work Placement Students helped out in this year’s Big Bang Science Fair 2014. The fair is a great vehicle in which to inspire 11-18 year olds from all backgrounds to study science, technology, engineering and maths https://www.thebigbangfair.co.uk/.

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