The Female Economic Growth Factor

Conference at Asia House 2 March 2017

I was asked to chair a session about women's participation in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  The issue is particularly pronounced in Asia where only three out of 18 countries have an equal or above proportion of females in the STEM workforce.  In Asia-Pacific there is a talent shortage of 45%, most of which is in STEM related occupations.                                              

Two speakers, both ambassadors for WINDS (Women's Initiative in Developing STEM Careers) - an initiative launched at the G7 in Japan last year - spoke to a packed audience about their experiences and recommendations for change. 

Professor Reiko Kuroda, Professor at Tokyo University of Science briefed the conference on the situation in Japan where encouraging women into the workforce is a fundamental part of the economic strategy of Prime Minister Abe to drive growth and overcome the challenges of an ageing and shrinking workforce.

Professor Averil MacDonald is Emeritus Professor of Science Engagement at the University of Reading.  She has published extensive research about the challenges of getting women into STEM careers in the UK, looking at the factors that influence career choice in young women, why STEM careers are rejected and the strategies that affect change, and those that don't.   It was a surprise to some of the audience that mothers and family attitude affects choice of careers such as engineering. 

The Q&A session after both speeches was lively.  Many spoke about their own experiences of working in Asia and others wanted to know more about the People Like Me initiative Professor MacDonald discussed, See  the ground-breaking resource for teachers, STEM ambassadors, careers advisors and others working with young people to show girls that people just like them are happy and successful working in science, technology or engineering.