In this blog, we take a look at the subject of S.T.E.M (an acronym for the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) with Claxton’s, Ann Vicens, a respected engineer with a long and diverse career history in the industry, is not only a specialist Product Leader, but very much representative of a successful woman contributing to cultural change in the workplace.
A passionate advocate for equal opportunities within traditional male-dominated industries, Ann has experienced positive change over the years, yet feels there is still some way to go to encourage an operating environment conducive to all gender types and abilities.
The World Economic Forum reports that by 2020, for every digital job created, four traditional jobs will be displaced for a man but 20 will be displaced for a woman - making it critical to keep young women interested and staying in these career paths.
In the report it also stated 72% of girls surveyed say it is important for them to have a job that directly helps the world and 91% describe themselves as creative. Only 60% understand how STEM subjects are relevant for their lives and the types of jobs on offer. When they do understand what can be achieved, their perception of the creativity and positive impact of STEM doubles in some cases.
As one high-school student explained: “The ‘engineer,’ it’s misunderstood, I think to most people it sounds like more of a masculine-based job.”
next generation of engineers
An enthusiastic character and role model, Ann is reaching out to the next generation of industry workers. She has forged strong relationships with further and higher education establishments (where students have already chosen their career pathways).
As a ‘STEM Ambassador’ Ann influences school age children by deconstructing the stigma and associations that inhibit take-up of subject learning or dispirit aspiration and progression into the industry.
“A recruitment crisis in the industry is looming due to the inability to recruit sufficiently skilled engineers and scientists”. Ann explains.
“Currently, only 12% of all engineers in the UK are female. In order to fill this gap, we need to influence our engineers of the future that the industry is for them.”
Despite many girls outperforming boys in STEM subjects there is compelling evidence that many feel they cannot enter the profession or find it unattractive. Work needs to be done to find out why this is happening and includes addressing misconceptions and barriers (whether physical, cultural or perceived). Not only are we missing out on real talent, but equally, women are missing out on fulfilling careers and social mobility too.
The industry will evolve its stance once it is engaged with a new generation of open-minded, people. Anne concludes:
“I would like to send a strong message to say that the deficit of people interested in STEM subjects needs addressing, not least that proportionally girls are under-represented. Everyone should be able to live up to their potential and do what they like and not just take a path because of wrong perceptions of what is adequate for their gender or condition. A mixed environment with people from different genders, backgrounds, experiences and profiles will be of benefit to all.
I’d like to dispel the image and stereotype of engineering – some is ‘hands-on’ but not all of it – it’s about solving problems, and this can come in many forms, for instance, a Software Engineer might never have to use a spanner other than perhaps to build some flat-packed furniture at home! There are a multitude of subjects that can provide a lot of options for life long career development.
We do need to motivate young people as early as possible though, as experience taints thinking with the idea that they are possibly not capable, whereas, in all reality, they absolutely are!”
Ann Vicens, Product Leader, Claxton Engineering and STEM Ambassador