How do you solve a problem like gender stereotyping? | BAE Systems | Cyber Security & Intelligence

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How do you solve a problem like gender stereotyping?

Head of Consulting, National Security / Technical Consultant, BAE Systems
When it comes to the shortage of women entering the fields of engineering and technology, the main cause is gender stereotyping and that’s a very difficult area to tackle because it’s all around us, all the time.
How do you solve a problem like gender stereotyping?One of the problems we face these days is that people are very happy to be technology consumers, but we don’t have enough technology creators. It’s one of the reasons we need to encourage more children, and particularly more girls, into the field of engineering and technology.
 
I’ve been working in this industry for over 20 years now. I started my career as a systems analyst and software engineer after graduating with a degree in Computer Science and Maths from the University of Manchester.
 
I was fortunate in that I always knew I was interested in science and engineering, I just had to work out exactly where my niche was. I also had access to a home computer as a child, which was fairly unusual, so I picked up programming as a hobby and my passion grew from there.
 

IT Skills Shortage


One of the reasons why we have an IT skills shortage is that when I was a child, if you wanted to play computer games, you had to get under the bonnet of technology. I used to buy a magazine, copy the code down, then make a few changes. Now, technology’s much easier to use. It’s very much like driving a modern car, in that you no longer have to understand what’s under the bonnet to get it to work.
 
When it comes to the shortage of women entering the fields of engineering and technology, the main cause is gender stereotyping and that’s a very difficult area to tackle because it’s all around us, all the time. It’s a society issues, so we have a responsibility to tackle it wherever we can. As engineering and technology employers, we can highlight the careers of our female members of staff in any engagement we have with schools, so we’re making it very clear to girls that there are role models out there, people just like them, doing what they want to do.
 

Opportunities to interact with technology


Meanwhile, school road shows create opportunities to interact with technology and children meet those who are hugely enthusiastic about the industry, and who perhaps break some of the stereotypes as well. There are also initiatives, such as STEMETTES that inspire and support young women into science, technology, engineering and maths careers; external networks we, as businesses, can link up with and provide enthusiastic staff to support.
 
Many children that go along to Coding For Kids courses, for example, are already interested in the subject, so you’re not necessarily opening fresh pairs of eyes to the industry. Trying to hook those children who aren’t already aware or interested in technology is the thing that will really make a difference.
 
The great thing about working in engineering is that there’s always an opportunity to solve a problem; always something new to think about. At BAE Systems, we use systems engineering to break problems down into small parts, so that they can be tackled, and perhaps apply an existing technology to a new kind of systems problem. If you’re the sort of person, like I am, that needs to feel like they’re being challenged and learning new things, the engineering industry is perfect for you.
 
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Mivy James Head of Consulting, National Security / Technical Consultant, BAE Systems July 7, 2017