'Lady Geek' in drive to draw more women to technology

Mon Apr 11, 2016 10:40am EDT
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By Zoe Tabary

LONDON (Reuters) - "Girls aren't cut out for a career in science and technology". Belinda Parmar has heard this sentence many times. In Britain, only 13 percent of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is made up of women – a damning figure for a sector reporting talent shortages.

Belinda is the founder of Lady Geek and Little Miss Geek, a campaign which aims to inspire women and girls to become pioneers in technology. Here, she discusses her own experience in the STEM sector, and ways of addressing gender barriers.

Q: Why did you found Little Miss Geek and Lady Geek?

A: I started Lady Geek after a poor experience in a phone shop, when I wanted to buy a new smartphone. The male sales assistant was 15 years younger than me, thought I knew nothing about technology and made me feel alienated because I didn't know the difference between a terabyte and a megabyte.

So I thought "I can't be the only woman in Britain who loves technology and doesn't want to operate in this kind of environment". I did some research and found that a third of all British women feel patronized by the tech industry.

I then advised major companies a couple of years ago and asked one of them to speak to some of the women making their products (given that 61 percent of their customers are female). To which they responded "well there's this woman in human resources, or this one who's a personal assistant". That pretty much summed up the problem for me.

Q: Although girls perform to the same – if not a higher – level than boys in STEM subjects, a minority go on to pursue or enjoy successful STEM careers. Why is that?   Continued...