One of the many things I love about India, is the meaning behind each person’s first name. Last week at the India Skills Forum, hosted by our Chairman and CEO, Ginni Rometty to discuss how we advance the STEM skills agenda in India, in particular with regards to women in technology, one young speaker really did live up to her name’s meaning of ‘divine light’.
‘Jyoti’, a grade 11 student from a school in the Northern Indian State of Himachal Pradesh, embodied for me, the future of 21st Century India. One of the first batches of Under-18 interns at IBM as part of the Atal Tinkering Marathon, and IBM’s youngest intern, Jyoti shared her skills development journey with great enthusiasm.
What really struck me about Jyoti was not just her great passion and aptitude for STEM, and how she has used her knowledge and skills to find solutions to real life problems around her in her community, but also her confidence and self-assurance; speaking so eloquently in front of a largely male-dominated audience. Her ability to bring the radiance and brightness associated with her name to capture the audience’s hearts and minds was so impressive.
With the news of IBM’s significant collaborations across India to advance the skills and careers of more than 200,000 female students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, the challenge and the opportunity for IBM, the Indian government and academia is ensuring these girls have not just new generation skills in areas like AI and Cloud, but the confidence and self-assurance needed to be future leaders. And, this is a challenge and opportunity beyond just India. Globally, women account for less than a third of those employed in technology jobs and only 18% of STEM leadership roles.
So, what more can we do in partnership to ensure there are more Jyoti’s not just in India but across the rest of the world?
There are three areas I believe we need to focus on to ensure we are building a pipeline of girls with what it takes to lead in a STEM:
o Holistic educative approach – in addition to ensuring we have a strong pipeline of skills in areas like data analysis and AI, we need to ensure that we are building girls’ soft skills – and in the areas that are going to be most in demand in the future as I wrote about recently.
o Role-models – it is so important that girls have access and exposure to women and men, for example through internship and mentoring programs, who are doing great things in STEM. After all, ‘if you can see it, you can be it’
o Breaking stereotypes – from a young age, we need to show girls that it’s okay to be confident and self-assured. Research shows that there is a self-efficiency gap, with women underrating themselves on technical and digital leadership skills, which is why it’s so essential that girls in STEM have the confidence to believe in themselves.