Lucy Murdoch: We must STEM the flow of talent we are losing

Picture: Ian Rutherford
Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Science, technology and technical innovation are at the forefront of Scotland’s business and economic ambitions.

Yet while we can boast a vast array of creative minds and innovative solutions, there is just one Achilles heel that we urgently need to address and, like in so many other walks of life, we need to introduce a greater gender balance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

A recent survey showed that half of school-age girls in Scotland believe that science and maths subjects are too difficult for them, with 47 per cent believing that STEM subjects are a “better match” for boys.

This suggests that we’ve got a big job to do to change those perceptions and support young girls to choose and excel in STEM subjects.

Everyone has a role to play in reversing these perceptions.

In seeking advice and guidance on what subjects to study, there is a “triangle of trust” where girls listen to their parents, teachers and career advisers when making the crucial decision on what to study.

However the same survey showed that parents themselves have a knowledge gap in STEM subjects. That’s why we need a concerted approach to support and drive a greater uptake among girls in choosing STEM subjects at school before progressing through university and into careers in the industry.

In Scotland we already have many fantastic female role models who are leading businesses, driving innovation, conducting scientific research and unifying businesses to identify the looming skills gap.

To increase the number of women in STEM careers we need to accelerate existing initiatives and introduce more to tackle the issue.

We need to future-proof our own talent pipelines and this must start from the very earliest stages of education to instil the “can do” attitude in our girls that they have the ability to excel in STEM subjects and go on to enjoy fruitful careers in the sector.

Scotland is driving ahead in STEM but we must think how much better we could be if we had more talent from the “other” 50 per cent of the population.

Lucy Murdoch is managing director, sales and customer services, with Accenture Scotland