Monster Confidence: My day volunteering at STEMettes
A lot has been written about the alarming lack of diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Though lots of companies talk about improving diversity in the abstract, at Hosted Graphite we’ve put practical measures in place through our hiring policies, the language we use in our job ads and the way we approach salary reviews to tackle the problem -- if even in our own small way.
That being said, we know that workplace environment and hiring strategies are far from the first challenges facing under-represented groups in the tech industry. Many people choose not to pursue a career in STEM long before they step into an office or read a job ad. That’s why groups like STEMettes are so important -- they organise panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes to encourage young women to choose courses like computer science now, in the hope that the gender ratio will change in the future.
A few months back, we sent one of our Senior Developers, Heather Wiencko, to spend the day volunteering at a STEMettes event in Dublin, aimed at building confidence in young women interested in STEM. Here, she talks about her experience:
Since my background is in science, I was asked to sit on the pre-lunch panel and give attendees a chance to ask questions about how I got where I am, why I ultimately chose a career in coding, and what kinds of challenges I've faced. The panel was all women, all doing exciting work in STEM.
From there, we moved to mock interviews, where I got to ask attendees from 15 to as old as 20 the same kinds of questions, like “What made you choose a career in STEM?" or "Can you talk about a time when you worked as part of a team to achieve a goal?". The idea is that by doing mock interviews (and speed mentoring), it will give them confidence for the real interviews they'll face in the near future.
Throughout the day, we were also treated to keynote talks about the speakers' career paths and lightning talks, on topics like what it’s like to work as a Data Scientist or the day to day challenges of being a Software Developer.
By the end of the day many attendees said they felt careers in STEM were more accessible than they previously had realised -- it was great to have played a part in making that happen.
The first time I volunteered with the STEMettes it was at a hackathon in Dublin attended by girls as young as 10, and that event had a similarly impressive impact on many of the people involved.
STEMette events are well-attended and expertly managed, and they do a fantastic job of getting an encouraging message across to girls and young women. Sometimes, all it takes is to see someone like you doing a tech job to know it's not out of reach.