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Gender parity

Let’s repeat history to do the right thing

Katherine Manuel, Thomson ReutersCould a World War II heroine be the secret to reversing the fact that so many girls give up on science, technology, engineering and math-related subjects in school and in their careers? Could a come-back of this same heroine in a modernized version help girls take advantage of the tremendous creative and inventive opportunities within Technology set to rocket in the coming years?

It’s no secret that businesses need to change their workforces, especially as those in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to outperform their competitors*.

Given innovations such as self-driving cars, drones, artificial intelligence, crypto currencies, high-quality online education and computerized medicine, we know that Technology will be the sector into which the smart money will flow.

With 1.4 million new computer science jobs set to be created in the U.S. alone by 2020, how do we get girls into the science, technology, engineering and math subjects that will give them an equal slice of the earnings men will take home?

Rosie the Riveter
Photo: The National Archives Still Pictures Branch

Having spoken at the Women in Technology Awards in Dallas earlier this month, it struck me that the iconic Rosie the Riveter campaign used during WWII in the US could provide us with some inspiration.

Using powerful imagery and clever slogans such as “Can you use an electric mixer? If so, you can learn to operate a drill” the campaign tempted 19 million American women into jobs that entailed skills to build aircrafts, munitions and other goods of immediate importance towards the war effort.

I’m proposing that we need another movement equal to Rosie’s that reaches schools, and children, to educate them and up-skill them in the fields of computer science and technology globally.

Let’s get the message on cereal boxes, milk cartons, toy packaging – everywhere in fact -and into the hearts and minds of women and young girls. It’s why I’ve set up a LinkedIn group with colleagues called Riveting STEM to start an open conversation and provoke joined up action to create a campaign for girls on the scale of Rosie the Riveter.

Naturally, it is of utmost importance to involve men. The chair of Thomson Reuters Women Advancement Taskforce is a man, our CEO Jim Smith, who is a member of the 30% Club, which is focused on increasing the number of women on Boards, but also on developing the pipeline. Men need and want to be involved. It’s good business and it’s the right thing to do.

There was real brilliance in the Rosie the Riveter campaign to help win the war. Let’s learn from history and for once repeat it for a good reason.

*McKinsey


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