UNDERSTANDING THE CHALLENGES AND EXPECTATIONS OF WOMEN IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS: THE ACADEMIC AND INDUSTRIAL PERSPECTIVE

A. Parmaxi 1, A. Economides 2, D.M. Puente Hevia3, M. Perifanou4, E. Loucaidou5, A. Chatzikyriakou5, S. Katic6, S.C. Vidmar6, M. Manchenko7

1Cyprus University of Technology (CYPRUS)
2University of Macedonia (GREECE)
3Magenta Consultoría Projects SLU (SPAIN)
4University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki (GREECE)
5A Really Inspiring Place (CYPRUS)
6Izobraževalni center Geoss d.o.o. (SLOVENIA)
7CESIE (ITALY)
The EU is facing an unparalleled shortage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) professionals. Women account for 52% of the European population, yet hold only 15% of ICT-related jobs. Women constitute only one in six of the ICT specialists in the EU and only 1 in 3 of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates. This under-representation occurs at all levels of the digital economy: in the engineering and physical sciences, but also in the number of women who are employees, corporate leaders and entrepreneurs. Increasing women's visibility and engagement in the digital economy could help address the EU’s ICT skills shortage and drive economic growth and wider social progress. Only one-third of workers in the scientific community are women (33%) and just three in ten work in computing engineering (30%). These numbers represent the same percentage in the technological field and the gap between men and women remains constant (OECD, 2018; European Commision, 2019). The main obstacles holding women back from the digital economy are gender bias and socio-cultural constructs, which at different life stages discourage girls and women from taking up STEM studies and careers.

The aim of this study is to report on the state-of-the-art regarding the needs, challenges, difficulties and expectations of women in STEM in Higher Education and industry. It will also compare the status of STEM women in five European countries (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain). Furthermore, it will provide recommendations on good practices, including approaches to deploy for keeping girls and women aware of the challenges encountered in STEM. Following a bottom-up approach, this study has captured the everyday lived experiences and practices of STEM students and professionals and distributed online surveys and interviews to key stakeholders (male and female academics, students and entrepreneurs) in the aforementioned 5 EU countries. Findings indicate that the glass ceiling is still prominent in STEM careers; whilst the gender gap is also present in Research and Development projects.

References:
[1] European Commision. (2019). EU countries commit to boost participation of women in digital - Shaping Europe’s digital future - European Commission. Retrieved 2 December 2020, from https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/eu-countries-commit-boost-participation-women-digital
[2] OECD. (2018). Retrieved 2 December 2020, from http://www.oecd.org/digital/bridging-the-digital-gender-divide.pdf