WOMEN should not be discouraged from being in and excelling in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), a field dominated by men, as shown by those who have managed to persisted and proven themselves.
During the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science Filipina STEM Leaders Forum on Feb. 22, women leaders in the said field shared how their company is aiming to close the gap between men and women.
“We’re trying to make sure that aside from them getting better at their technical skills, helping them improve every time because technology is just so fast and you have to learn new things. We have to add in those soft skills. We have to teach them that it’s okay to negotiate,” Michie Ang, founding director of nonprofit organization Women Who Code Manila, and a co-founder of technology company Tecsoft.
She said that the organization is making ways for women to get more knowledge about the technology, but also provide them with soft skills to help them be more confident of themselves.
“We want more women to speak at different events. Be confident about themselves …. We just have to help them, kind of like, it’s okay to do this. Be comfortable with yourself,” Ms. Ang said.
As noted in a study by the International Labor Organization (ILO), 49% of employment, or 18 million jobs are at risk of being automated in the Philippines most pf which require low STEM skills, which are most of the time taken by women. Therefore, there is a 140% chance that women will be losing their jobs compared to men.
Ambe C. Tierro, senior managing director of Accenture Technologies, noted the importance of having role models in the industry could further encourage women to be in the field.
“It can be very discouraging … You’re afraid to talk. You’re even afraid to raise your hand … it’s scary,” she said.
“We need more women examples of different kinds … varied kinds of role models will help women see themselves and reflect, Ah, I can be like that,” she said.
Maria Cristina G. Coronel, president and chief executive officer of homegrown company Pointwest Technologies Corp., further noted the importance of role models in a company for women especially for those letting go of opportunities due to their responsibilities as homemakers.
“It takes two. The organization has to provide opportunities for them to advance… second, it’s actually the ladies wanting, but that’s where the problem comes in, while the organization can provide opportunities for you to grow… it’s really the ladies holding back… that’s why we make sure that we are able to inspire them that it’s alright to be a leader,” she said.
“I think there is still this guilt feeling that if you become more of a mother, you become less of a manager or conversely, if you become more of a manager, you are less of a mother, so I think we have to change that mindset,” she added.
For Aileen Judan-Jiao, who was named president and country manager of IBM Philippines in July 2018, sustaining these women in the field is a big challenge. It’s important to show women that being in this field is okay to push them to stay and not be discouraged.
“I think what is important here is we see what is really the problem we’re trying to solve. I think… it’s really the middle part…. I would focus on the phase where the really issue really is about getting them sustain. Getting them interested is not the problem that’s the easier part, I would say… the interest is there, [but] the question is when it’s time to show and game na… they are not there,” she said.
“It’s really more about the work-life, the integration and seen that it’s okay to have these different roles whether they are very technical professions… or even management positions. It’s got to be very inclusive,” she said. — Vincent Mariel Galang