Education and Skills

A question following International Women's Day: where does 'she' belong?

Astronaut Karen Nyberg looks through a window in the newly installed Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Discovery is docked with the station in this photo released by NASA June 11, 2008

Ongoing initiatives to get more women into STEM subjects will be vital for the future of work. Image: REUTERS/NASA

Alison Kay
Global Vice-Chair, Industry, EY
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“She belongs…” How would you complete this sentence? To celebrate International Women’s Day, EY used the hashtag #SheBelongs. Here were three things that came to mind for me.

She belongs in the classroom

My daughter will start secondary school this September, and I’m continually impressed by her ambition and that of her friends. They are inspirational in the forthright way they challenge why and how things are done, in their willingness to work hard and in their openness to a radically different future.

Globally, more girls are in primary education now than were 20 years ago, although ongoing campaigns like that of education activist Malala Yousafzai highlight the work that remains to be done.

The next generation of girls already believe they belong in education. What we need to do is create a business environment in which they can thrive and reach their full potential. But we’re not there yet.

She belongs in space

Do you remember the photo from the control room that went viral when India successfully sent a satellite into orbit around Mars in 2014 (and on a smaller budget than that of the movie The Martian)? Women staff in colourful saris with flowers in their hair celebrated alongside their male colleagues.

It was an image that expanded many people’s ideas about what people working on space missions look like, and it fed into a great Twitter campaign - #ThisIsWhatAScientistLooksLike.

There are ongoing initiatives to get more girls into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and to develop careers in STEM. This matters because of the importance of these fields to the future, as disruptive technology and innovation continue to reshape the way we live, work and play.

She belongs everywhere

We are living through a transformative age in which disruption and uncertainty are features of our working environment. Organizations need the best talent - of different genders, generations, ethnicities and backgrounds - to deliver breakthrough thinking and new ways of working. There is overwhelming evidence that diverse teams produce the best business performance.

We need to sort out issues such as the unconscious bias that perpetuates inequality; to prevent artificial intelligence magnifying current biases; and to halt a growing global digital divide that could widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.

This cannot be left to chance. The best way to create an inclusive environment is to measure and report on it, as people act on what is visible. We have all the tools we need; analytics and metrics can measure the pipeline of women and other groups at each level of an organization, as well as monitor pay gaps and check unconscious bias in recruitment and promotion. Now we need to use these tools. Only then will everyone belong.

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Related topics:
Education and SkillsEquity, Diversity and Inclusion
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