Cristina Querzè, Human Resources Director, Sales and Western Europe at Vertiv, explores why ensuring inclusion and diversity in STEM industries needs to begin with education
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries are facing a significant challenge. There is a huge chasm between the technical skills needed to support the growth of automation and digitalisation and those currently available – often referred to as the skills gap, due to a lack of diversity in STEM. Because technology is being “consumerised”, the need for people with IT skills is increasingly growing. One solution is encouraging more young people to embark on a STEM career, particularly females and those with diverse backgrounds.
Diversity is good for business
It’s well known that companies and hiring managers in the technology industry are committed to seeking opportunities to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. Forward-looking organisations know that building a diverse and inclusive team isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s good for business and will help to close the skills gap. From forging better customer relationships to harnessing a range of skills and world views to drive innovation, the benefits to the business of a robust diversity strategy are clear.
The issue is particularly pressing in the data centre industry, which has long been male-dominated. If we continue to drive the sector forward, it’s imperative to encourage more women, and people from diverse backgrounds, into the field.
But, whilst many businesses are working hard to nurture a diverse workforce, and undoubtedly it’s a work in progress, the road to success must begin with education. The formative years are crucial to encouraging minorities to pursue and thrive in STEM careers. Today, gender stereotypes and lack of role models affect the number of girls and women choosing to study STEM subjects and ultimately pursue careers in the field – and for the sake of the entire economy, it’s important that this changes quickly.
Of course, it’s not just about inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM, minorities must have access to education and appropriate resources from a young age.
How are organisations educating young people about the opportunities in STEM?
Some companies are investing heavily in enabling all young children and people to make informed choices. Some, for example, offer Summer School programmes that provide gender-equal educational opportunities in STEM to young students from all over Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The programmes can include full days of virtual lessons for 14-21-year-olds and are a dense and interactive experience made up of interviews, questions sessions, virtual tours across multiple sites and offices, as well as live interaction with other participants.
Not only do initiatives like this help to deliver opportunity and inspiration, they also help young people understand the issues and challenges they face – ultimately ensuring they are a part of delivering systemic change for the long term. To tackle gender bias, it’s crucial to understand what it is.
It is important that from an early age, children and young people are given crucial opportunities to learn from one another, across borders, and to share ideas, understanding that collaboration is essential to driving progress.
What can organisations do to ensure inclusion and diversity in STEM industries?
The next step would be to encourage other organisations to offer programmes like this and perhaps even work together across industries:
- Make the relationships you forge with young people enduring – commit to staying in touch with, and nurturing, cohorts for the long- term.
- Establish closer relationships with academia – working with schools, colleges and universities to help them understand what industry needs from candidates, and vice-versa – what experience and opportunities can businesses deliver to today’s students?
- Learn from each other – share best practice and inspiration across the industry to boost whole-sector progress.
- Commit to continuing education – building employee programmes which boost awareness of, and insight into, the importance of equality and how to achieve it.
- Set clear and measurable targets – what does success look like for your organisation?
It’s undoubtedly a long road ahead to ensure equality of opportunity in the technology industry – and specifically for data centre providers. However, it’s great to see progress being made and the widespread commitment to begin building diversity strategies right from the start when young people are in education.
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