Data and analytics are essential skills for any job in telecommunications -- even traditional creative positions such as marketing -- but unfortunately girls lose interest in STEM at an early age, a new study shows.
*At the Big 5G Event's Women in Telecommunications workshop last week in Denver, panelist Kim Gibbons, Chief Marketing Officer for NetNumber, explained that it's important to foster an interest in STEM throughout girls' journey through school. She cited a 2018 study by Microsoft and KRC Research that reviewed the success of STEM education in 6,000 US girls and women from ages ten to 30. Unfortunately, the study found that interest in STEM declines as girls get older due to factors ranging from "peer pressure, to a lack of role models and support from parents as well as teachers, to a general misperception of what STEM careers look like in the real world," explained Suzanne Choney in an article about the study's results.
While creativity in marketing roles is still a requirement, women in any role in the telecommunications industry need strong skill sets in data analytics, said Angela LaFosse, marketing director of Business Mobility & Internet of Things for Bell Mobility, during the panel.
LaFosse joined a panel of fellow service providers and vendors to discuss progress made in closing the gender gap for women in comms, as well as how future generations can prepare for positions in the industry. LaFosse emphasized that a background in STEM education -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- is critical for any job function for women in comms, whether it be a marketing or engineering role, for example.
"STEM will help us self-solve and self-correct for a lot of [the gender gaps] we've seen in the past," said LaFosse.
As a mentor, LaFosse has had a front-row seat view on how jobs are evolving. The days are gone when marketers can rely solely on their creativity to excel.
"The way jobs are evolving, I can't think of a job function for which data and analytics doesn't separate amazing from not amazing people," she said. "We have access to more information so it's implied we use that information to be better at what we do." Math and analytical skills are no longer optional, but will be a requirement to excel because these technical skills are "a function of all jobs," she explained.
By engaging children in STEM outside the classroom, parents can play a role in continuing to foster an interest in math and science. Even a cooking lesson at home can incorporate science, said panelist Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, Director for Strategy Analytics.
"It's about building confidence and getting children intrigued," said Grimaldo. "I want to plant the seeds of critical thinking and curiosity in my children," echoed fellow panelist Shirin Esfandiari, product marketing director at Oracle Communications.
The needle is moving on gender bias at a national level with efforts such as the Association of National Advertisers' #SeeHer campaign. Launched in 2016, the #SeeHer campaign strives to more accurately portray girls and women in advertisements and reduce unconscious bias. Gibbons said the campaign also makes an effort to portray more women in leadership roles -- imagery that could be beneficial to increase girls' sustained interest in STEM education.
— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed the information about the #SeeHer campaign and Microsoft study to Susan Welsh de Grimaldo.)