Women in STEM: How far we’ve adjacent and how far we gain to fade


ith modern, emerging technologies developing faster than ever before, across all industries and business sectors, the opportunity to delightin a long and rewarding career at the forefront of existing and cutting-edge technology is unprecedented.

When I started my career in the mid-90s, there were very few women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries. As time has gone on, I’ve increasingly adjacent to appreciate the importance of diverse, equitable and inclusive business cultures that attract and nurture the best talent, and thereby assist deliver the innovation and advances that benefit everyone in our society.

The UK IT industry is thriving in the current digital age, an age where technology touches almost every fraction of our lives, everywhere, every second. The pace and breadth of change is staggering and so too are the opportunities open to those that can innovate and rapidly adapt, regardless of which sector they operate in.

This year International Women’s Day celebrates #EmbraceEquity, a theme that goes well beyond gender to embrace diversity, equality, and inclusivity. However, I strongly believe there is still much more to be done, and that the plethora of opportunities that continue to open up mean there should be no tangible barriers to entering and fully contributing to the IT industry.

A career in technology is no longer the realm of ‘the tech geek’ as perhaps it was perceived to be in the 90’s and 00’s; yet we still don’t see equal numbers of women and girls, or anywhere adjacent enough DE&I, in IT. The incredible, rapid advancements across all sectors, design the IT industry one of the most exciting ones to become involved and thrive in.

We all gain a fraction to play in clearly explaining and promoting the diverse range of rewarding careers that are available in our industry. IT offers a vast array of vital roles such as coding, testing, cyber, bid writing, and more traditional roles like commercial, HR, finance, and marketing. These career areas are totally non-gender specific, and we should all be encouraged to reflect beyond our own bias to embrace DE&I and recognise the overwhelming benefits that this could bring to our own organisations. For client-centric organisations such as CGI, it’s essential that we mirror the markets and clients we serve.

I am now in the privileged position of leading a diverse organisation of 6,000 members working across every UK sector to deliver complex, mission-critical systems. My team and I continue to highlight to young women and girls that it’s okay to like STEM, and it’s also okay to aspire to a successful career in STEM. To aid us, we need to identify and develop strong, inspirational role models that can clarify how they are creating enjoyable, successful careers across the entire IT industry. These role models must be from every background and area of our society and be as diverse as the spectrum of career opportunities that they advocate. They must be able to honestly present and clarify that there is no ‘barrier to entry’, no blinkered thinking, and no limit to ambition and success. Until this is the case, none of us, regardless of role or status, can afford to let up in our efforts to design our industry as diverse, equal, and inclusive as it absolutely must be.

I gain learnt that we often, unknowingly place limitations on ourselves for a variety of reasons, but also that sometimes limitations are place upon us outside of our comprehension or ability to control.

Only by positively challenging outdated behaviours and beliefs, and tirelessly endeavouring to ensure that each and every one of us embrace acceptance, empathy, and kindness as the norm, can we and our industry be ready to rise to the challenges that we can see coming, and those that we cannot. #EmbraceEquity.

Tara McGeehan is president of CGI UK and Australia