Around the world, there are still efforts to be made towards gender equity in the job market, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) industry.
As Isabelle Charest, former Minister of Education and Minister responsible for the Status of Women, mentions in the preface of the Manifesto on Women in STEM, women are a minority and struggle to obtain their rightful place in this field. In Canada, although they obtain higher grades than men in these subjects in secondary school, many women do not pursue their studies in these fields and instead choose to pursue careers in other industries.
Akinox is actively committed to making a difference and promoting women in technology. With almost 40% of its workforce being female, which is quite rare for a tech company, Akinox is dedicated to the diversity of its team of experts and encourages women at all levels, particularly in decision-making positions.
In 2021, in the STEM industry in Québec, 75% of students were men (article in French only), while at the university level, women represent most graduates. It is interesting to analyze why women are not as present as men in this industry.
Women in the STEM Industry in Québec and Around the World
Among the reasons often cited to explain this gap, we find:
- Gender biases. According to UNESCO, women’s careers in sciences still face gender biases in the 21st century. In fact, there are several prejudices against women in these fields that are widespread in society, such as the belief that women are not interested in mathematics and science. The widely held stereotypes (article in French only) make women feel out of place (article in French only) and choose other fields.
- Harassment and microaggressions are unfortunately present in these fields, and women end up distancing themselves. In the United States, according to the report published in 2018 by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, 58% of women in these disciplines had already experienced some form of sexual harassment.
- The wage gap between men and women. Indeed, as in many industries, women are generally paid less than men, and this is no different in the STEM industry. On average, in Canada, women earn nearly 20,000$ less than men in the technology sector (article in French only).
- A lack of representation in general in history, in companies, but also in schools. Few women teach computer science, mathematics, and engineering at the college and university level. At the professional level, few women hold positions in top management, such as CTO (Chief Technology Officer) or department heads.
Fortunately, movements, organizations, and companies are trying to change things by improving the reality of women in the STEM industry. Akinox, being a company that works in this field, encourages both women internally through its numerous female collaborators and externally through its choice of partnerships and various stakeholders.
Women at Akinox
According to Claude Chagnon, our Director of Talent, Culture, and Well-being, it is not surprising that equity is one of the four fundamental values at Akinox. Indeed, Claude is very familiar with the situation of women in STEM, and it is a subject that is close to her heart. In fact, she is currently pursuing a PhD in psychology, and her final thesis is about social biases and feminist studies.
Every year in March, Claude gives a conference on women and other minorities in the workplace, an opportunity to address prejudices, inequalities, and the reality of women in the STEM industry, and to remind us how we can change things.
“It is important to inform, sensitize, and train people on the importance of equity between women and men. By doing so, we actively participate in creating a more equitable world for women and minorities.”
Claude Chagnon, Director of Talent, Culture, and Well-being.
Akinox advocates for salary equity between men and women based on the skills and experience of each employee, and encourages women to take on strategic roles within the company. In 2022, women represented nearly 40% of our resources. In the different departments of the company, diversity is very strong for a STEM industry: 55% of women in the project department, 25% in the development department, nearly 70% in the QA department, 50% in the technical support team, and 100% in the business intelligence department.
In its daily practices, Akinox honors women and encourages them to take their place. For example, two of our female collaborators gave the Akinox workshop at the Performance and Value of Data Conference in March 2022: Tania Gobeil, product manager, and Barbara Philippot, one of our formidable business intelligence specialists. Tania is also one of our flagship speakers and gives many conferences on digital health to share her expertise with the community. We are very proud to be able to showcase brilliant women in the male-dominated technology industry.
Finally, at the level of our business partners, we also try to promote diversity. One of the companies we like to collaborate with is Kotmo, a company founded and predominantly composed of women. Most of the promotional items, such as our welcome boxes for new collaborators and small gifts offered to our experts, are produced and delivered by Kotmo.
“It is very important for Akinox to showcase the women who are stakeholders in the company. Without them, we would not have the success in completing our projects that we have today!”
Alexander Dahl, President and Founder of Akinox.
How To Evolve the Reality of Women in the STEM Industry?
“To make change happen, the change must be intentional,” said Claude Chagnon, Director of Talent, Culture, and Well-being.
“To increase the number and influence of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM, concerted efforts are needed from all of society. Changes must be intentional, systemic, and systematic, and as a company, we have a role to play.” Here are five interesting points to start making a change in society, according to Claude:
- Build confidence. It is important to collaborate in dispelling the myth that women are not suited for STEM fields. There is no data to support this claim. It is necessary to actively promote and encourage women to pursue careers in STEM.
- Prioritize STEM for girls from kindergarten to high school. It is important to encourage the implementation of a plan to interest girls in STEM from a very young age until the end of high school. Specific programs should target these students for STEM studies, helping them to realize their potential.
- Encourage women to pursue post-secondary education in STEM. The number of women in STEM will increase if women are encouraged to choose STEM and have more opportunities to do so.
- Promote women’s persistence in STEM. Although 34% of women in Québec are enrolled in STEM programs, less than 25% pursue careers in this field. Advocating for non-toxic environments, limiting sexism and racism through policies and standards, is necessary.
- Encourage STEM companies to recruit, hire, and promote women. This is an important point because, for women, one of the main reasons for not pursuing a career in STEM is the lack of female role models in this field and the idea that their gender limits their career prospects.
As a conscious company, we can begin to take action in this direction to make a difference right now.
Why Is it Important for Business To Improve Themselves?
Encouraging diversity comes with numerous benefits for both businesses and society. Several reports suggest that:
- Measures taken to reduce gender inequality in the workplace could contribute up to $150 billion to the Canadian economy by 2026. If the gender gap were completely eliminated, this figure would reach $420 billion.
- High-performing companies tend to have a higher number of women in leadership positions. In fact, 37% of leaders in high-performing companies are women, compared to 19% of leaders in low-performing companies.
- Companies with the highest rates of diversity (in terms of gender, ethnicity, or race) are between 15% and 35% more likely to achieve financial returns above their industry’s national average.
How To Be a Better Ally Within the Company
As colleagues, leaders, or executives, a few simple gestures can help make a difference. Here are five tips for those who wish to help bring about change within their company, according to Claude Chagnon from Akinox:
- Question yourself. Listen to others and notice our own sexist behaviors, often “inherited,” which are often not conscious or deliberate.
- Read, learn, and educate yourself. Be increasingly aware of what is happening around us. Education is the key.
- Intervene. Kindly highlight when you witness a specific behavior.
- Avoid defensive phrases. Learn to listen to others’ reality without feeling attacked.
- Finally, listen, stop, reflect, and apologize if necessary.
“Through these simple actions, not only do you become an ally colleague, but also contribute to improving the daily lives of women in the STEM industry and in all other fields,” says Claude Chagnon, Director of Talent, Culture, and Well-being at Akinox.
We have highlighted some of the reasons why it is important to encourage women in the STEM industry and some ways to achieve it. There is still a long way to go, and as a company, leader, employee, or colleague, we have an essential role to play in improving our policies and practices, evolving our visions and behaviors to lead us towards a more equitable world where everyone will have the fair success they deserve.
Do you want to participate in the Akinox adventure to be an ally for women in STEM? Visit https://www.akinox.com/careers, contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 1 (800) 996-9196 to speak with our experts.