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This Girl Can – 101 Ways Intern Talks Getting Women into STEM

by Rachel Murray, 20 November 2019

Araminta Bos-Rich is a Bath native, horse lover (she has one that at 26 years, is older than her) and was one of 101 Ways’ summer interns. Although she had to leave to go back to university, we didn’t really want to let her go because she brought us doughnuts, was really helpful to the team during her time here. 

A STEM graduate (Equine Science) who is currently finishing up a Masters in business, she is clearly going places and has her eye on consultancy life. As a prospective woman in tech, Minty (as she’s known) and I caught up with her to talk diversity, equality and how organisations – including us – can encourage more girls to get into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Hi Minty, it was a pleasure to have you with us over the summer and hope the final stretch of your Masters is going well! I’m fascinated to learn more about your path through education. I’d never heard of Equine Science before meeting you and wonder what your experience of learning about it – and other STEM degree subjects – was prior to applying?

For me, school exposure was very confined to traditional subjects (and that equated with ‘boring’), so it was by chance that I discovered my university degree. I didn’t know Equine Science was even a thing, so I’m sure there are others that are unaware of the potential STEM degrees and therefore careers out there, too. 

I think more information is needed at school about the variety of opportunities within STEM and particularly areas outside of the bog-standard maths/physics/engineering degrees. I also think schools and other educational institutions need to make STEM more appealing. If you want to attract them, tell children and teenagers how many amazing STEM careers are out there and offer them the chance to try fun activities or work experience within the respective industries. 

What was your initial perception of both STEM courses and careers? 

That it was still very male-dominated; I’m not sure if this will change in the immediate future, but I think as more women get into STEM roles, progress will be made eventually. Work also needs to be done within schools to remove the stigma that only ‘geeky’ or ‘genius’ kids are the ones that do [or should do] STEM subjects – it can be off-putting and perpetuates the problem. 

Did the perception match the reality once you got to university?

Amazingly, there ended up being more women than men on my course (although there was some later attrition by some of the women), but I’m not sure about the gender mix on other STEM courses at my uni. 

The attrition on my course was due to reality not matching expectations and therefore a couple of students seemed to struggle. I imagine that for girls and women studying core STEM subjects it may have felt harder to quit as you wouldn’t want to portray being incapable or less intelligent. This could perhaps be quelled by offering all students studying these subjects, mentoring sessions – either by someone who has done the same degree or is already working within a related career. 

It would also be extra beneficial to offer female students the chance to have a female mentor to empathise with and inspire them. 

At 101 Ways, we’re always looking for new ways to support women in tech and STEM, whether it’s through our Women’s Tech Focus (WTF) community, encouraging women to have a voice at events, on our clients sites or through our blog. The wider industry is slowly moving forward and progress is hopefully being made, but there is always more to be done. What, in your opinion can be done to boost this from a graduate perspective?

When considering the attraction and recruitment of girls and women, educational institutions, companies and the industry-at-large need to think about the following:

    1. Wording of job specifications – Specifically making sure they aren’t too blunt, unappealing or lacking in detail. Job specs can often be direct and unengaging, not just to women. I think people react better to more descriptive language rather than a list of requirements and unnecessary technical jargon (obviously there are points when it is needed) but there also needs to be an awareness of using gendered language;
    2. Startups having more of a presence in schools and universities – When you think about careers fairs etc it’s mainly big companies; there are very few small businesses and startups. I think STEM has this warped perception that you can only really work in and will only find work in, large corporations. For a lot of people that’s not the right fit; small businesses and startups like 101 Ways often have a people-focused culture and it would be great to find a way to communicate that to students and graduates;
    3. Availability of funding, work experience or placements and opportunities especially in startups and smaller organisations – There can be a lack of student or graduate opportunities in startups for obvious reasons, but perhaps something can be done to address this. Maybe something like a centralised academy or community where startups can work together to offer exposure to students and graduates – you never know, young women coming through the pipeline may be the next CEO/CTO of a unicorn fintech company!
    4. Use big impact campaigns – Like “#ThisGirlCan” to help remove the stigma around women in STEM and challenge prejudicial views and stereotypes on a wider level by showing young girls that such careers are not only possible, but a great choice; and
    5. Offer better support – Providing funding and mentoring whether through buddy systems, internships, coaching or women’s networks like WTF is really helpful – especially the WTF StandUp initiative that allows women to share their stories on a wider scale. This support can then be paid forward as girls and women progress up the STEM career ladder.

That’s really good to know. It’s certainly something we’ve been trying to put into place here, especially in the case of offering opportunities for work experience and having a bigger presence not only within our communities like WTF, but also through our directors like Emma Hopkinson-Spark giving talks to pupils outside of London where there is less of a ‘hub’. 

Finally, what is it that you like about 101 Ways and consultancy work in particular?

It’s about the duality of the approach; you see it from the company and consumer side and get to help. It’s problem-solving at its core; you’re able to firstly take an etic view of the organisation and see which areas are struggling and require fixing, then you’re able to immerse yourself within the company and working with its people by taking an emic approach. 

During my week at 101 Ways I was able to shadow everyone in the HQ team, including the directors. It exposed me to every part of the business and I felt like consulting can be a really rewarding process; it’s exciting to see how organisations change and improve both during and after you’ve been involved and that’s something I’d love to be involved in, in the future.

Thanks Minty – it’s been a pleasure to have you and we look forward to seeing how your career progresses, so keep us posted!

 

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