STEM, the gateway to the future
STEM: four letters plotting a route into the future. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, subjects that are opening the door to new professions. Unfortunately, however, many prejudices and common misconceptions remain, and these dissuade female students from choosing to study these subjects at university, thereby excluding them from a plethora of professional opportunities.
To offer food for thought and introduce some inspiring role models for female students, we launched the “Tech Talks,” a cycle of digital meetings. On November 18 and 25 these featured, and in the future will feature, nationally and internationally accomplished female professionals from the fields of science, culture and business. The initiative is part of a wider series of projects that we have implemented in recent years (from Women in Tech to Girls in ICT and Leaders for a day) to raise awareness among girls and young women of the importance of continuing their studies in STEM subjects and debunking some of the common misconceptions regarding these disciplines.
These events represent, as was underlined by Maria Luisa Marino, the Group’s Head of People Care & Diversity Management, an opportunity to share our vision of the future and that of our guest speakers, with a wide audience of young people and teachers. A future in which technology plays a decisive role and in which STEM skills are facilitating the creation of new professions that are increasingly in demand.
“It is fundamental,” Carlo Bozzoli, Head of Global Digital Solutions underlined, “to continue to help young people navigate the world of work, which is increasingly combining technology and a new renaissance, without fear, but aware of the need to avoid cutting themselves off from opportunity, because the STEM subjects offer the possibility of working on the big issues that will determine the future of the planet.”
The first two appointments
More than 600 students, together with their teachers from schools all over the country, connected to the live stream of the first two appointments featuring guest contributors Ersilia Vaudo, Chief Diversity Officer at the European Space Agency, and Francesca Gabrielli, CEO of Assist Digital.
But why is it important to promote these courses of study?
Giuseppe Amoroso, Head of Digital Strategy and Governance, responded by pointing to some important facts. “In 2019 only 24.6% of Italian graduates chose STEM subjects. This is less than one third and represents a genuine national emergency that is even more worrying if we consider another statistic: only 16.2% of female graduates studied STEM subjects, compared with 37.3% of men.” Nevertheless, there is also some good news: in Italy, an expected 8 million new jobs are set to be created in these sectors by 2025. Given the substantial disparity between supply and demand, the demand for professionals with STEM skills is set to continue to grow. For this reason, Amoroso concluded with a direct invitation: “What are you waiting for? You too can embrace this challenge!”
Constraining the choices of many girls and young women are stereotypes and prejudices. In 1983 Sally Ride was the USA’s first female astronaut to travel into space, explained Ersilia Vaudo, and NASA even made provisions for her to put on her make up. “The NASA engineers decided that female astronauts would want to wear cosmetics, so they designed a make-up kit…” This anecdote reveals how the field of science and technology has not always been culturally welcoming when it comes to integrating women (who in the space sector make up just 12% of the total). This situation must change if we want to avoid missing out on the vital contribution that half of the world’s population can make to creating a more sustainable world. Vaudo’s speech inspired both male and female students, reminding them that Italian is the language of our country, English the language of the world and mathematics that of the universe.
Diversity is also a precious resource. Francesca Gabrielli’s speech centered on passion, spurring young people on to have the courage to follow theirs, to be optimistic and to turn mistakes into opportunities. Drawing inspiration from design thinking, an approach to innovation that is based on the capacity to resolve complex problems in a creative way, she talked about the new digital professions and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach and collaboration in order to achieve common goals. For instance, the fight against climate change that requires us to increase production from renewable sources and reduce environmental impacts, making processes and products more sustainable, before it’s too late. Technological innovation is therefore fundamental not only for opening doors to the jobs of the future, but for building a better one.
At the Tech Talks Carlo Bozzoli concluded his speech with a call to action: “I urge schools to further promote the STEM professions, through school-work experience programs because it is absolutely key to bring education into business and business into education, enabling youngsters to truly get a feel of how these skills are put to use in the workplace each day. Businesses must play their part too. Our aim is to try to spark as much interest as possible with events like today’s, but this alone isn’t enough, it’s just a drop in the ocean of what we must all contribute.”