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Women transforming the STEM industries

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Sixty years ago, my grandmother enrolled at university to study to be a pharmacist, something which, back then, was considered a vulgar display of ambition. She was discouraged multiple times by her own people to quit and just focus on being a mother. Thanks to her persistence, she ended up as one of a tiny minority of female students in a university full of young men – finished with flying colours, and opening her own pharmacy when she was 28 years old, and already a mother of three. Of course, to be able to arrange the mortgage of the property which would serve as the pharmacy, she needed her husband´s approval and signature, but this didn’t stop her. She ran the pharmacy for the next 30 years. When I think about this, I can only contemplate the importance today of women having professional ambitions, and for that ambition to be a cause of admiration, by both men and women, rather than a trigger for judgement.

I must admit that my generation appears to enjoy an easier path to achieving our professional goals. Over the last few decades, there has been a shift in attitudes towards women in STEM sectors, and we’ve seen more opportunities for women to pursue careers in these fields opening up.


Women shaping the future of tech through Artificial Intelligence

One area where women are particularly making an impact in tech is in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). A good example is Mira Murati, CTO at OpenAI which are the creators of the well-known ChatGPT. AI, AI has the potential to transform our world, and women are bringing their unique perspectives and skills to help shape its future. They are making a real difference by opening new doors for the next generations of female entrepreneurs and leaders in the STEM sectors, not just as entrepreneurs, and not just in AI, but also in leadership roles within established tech companies in finance, marketing, sales, or HR departments.

I can see, feel and experience how organisations are now acknowledging the significance of having women in tech roles as well as in leadership positions, and are actively recruiting them for the unique perspective they bring to the table. The focus is on creating inclusive and diverse work environments that benefit everyone. And also, on ensuring that employees have excellent role models to learn from, to inspire and mentor them – something that can only happen if the leadership team is composed of both men and women from different backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, etc.


Women need to raise their voices in order for others to hear them

Another crucial topic which I think deserves more discussion, and not just because there is still so much room for improvement, is the ideas of work-life balance and flexibility. However, I do believe that women are sometimes to blame for this. I often talk to my female friends about this topic, and I end up hearing things like “I can’t just leave before 6pm to have dinner with my son, because people will look at me as if I was skipping work”, or “I am so scared of taking that new job. I’m just not ready yet”, or “I want to have a baby at some point in the next two years, and after that I will focus on my career”. If it was a man in any of those situations, they wouldn’t even give it a second thought. They would just leave early or take the new job, and then see what happens.

We – women – are the ones with the insecurities that end up stopping us from taking the next step in our careers, and in our lives. I think that if we truly want equality and equity, we need to start making these decisions without rethinking them too much, and believing that we can do both. We will probably not always get to do everything, or at least not when we want to. But that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that we are not succeeding, it just means that we are human, and we need an extra hour to do it, or to get up a little earlier, or to do it again. In the end, we make things happen, and we make them right. It’s just that sometimes it doesn’t happen as we had originally planned, and that is also ok. We need to be confident in ourselves, and most importantly, be allies to each other and support our female colleagues.


Successful women that chose both: big families and big careers

In this regard, I must say that I have a profound admiration for women like Susan Wojcicki, former CEO of YouTube, who strives to make time to have dinner and spend the evening with her five children before checking her emails, work agenda, etc. Another woman I fully admire is Helena Morrissey, who was just 35 when Newton Investment Management group appointed her CEO. By that time, she had already had five of her nine children, and the youngest of them were aged three, two and one at the time. She was in the role for 15 years, and always talks about the importance of having support from other men to get her there, not least from her husband. Like these two examples, there are more and more professional women who become successful leaders every year, and that’s something to aspire to.

I am very proud to work at Noventiq, an organisation where everyone feels truly valued, which offers flexibility for all employees, and whose leaders encourage work-life balance for both, women and men.



(The author is Ms. Rocio Herraiz, Head of Global Communications & PR at Noventiq, and the views expressed in this article are her own)

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