Today we’re sharing STEM Insights from Cynthia Guthrie, Joint Managing Director, Guthrie Group Ltd
Q1. Why do think getting more girls into STEM subjects is important?
Introducing girls into STEM subjects is vital to open up career areas and opportunities which have been historically male dominated. Consequently this would also provide a bigger prospect base for female Directors of the future across a wider spectrum.
Q2. With a magic wand and no barriers, what initiative or step-change would you introduce to get more girls into STEM?
Every school and FE college should have a STEM policy and programme to market and promote STEM to girls. I would appoint a role model as the Patron or champion for promoting STEM within their school/college. This would be a successful female from a STEM related industry who could be the figure head for that institution’s STEM activity. Nationally I would like to see a TV and social media campaign with an A list celebrity or very high profile individual as national patron or STEM Tsar spearheading the campaign, to bring the whole exercise together. This should be supported by the Government.
I would like to see financial incentives to assist SMEs with the employment of more female apprentices.
In business men are trained quite differently from women. I’d replace mindfulness, assertiveness and work life balance courses for girls and women with focused training on Business, Strategy and Finance.
I’d also enforce Equal Pay for middle management females to address the gender pay gap. This would encourage more women to stay with larger companies and progress to Board level, thus providing more role models for girls.
Q3. When or what made you realise that STEM subjects weren’t just for boys?
I’m of a generation where it was expected that girls would get married and produce babies. The career woman was not much in evidence. My first job on leaving school was with a large national insurance company where all women had to wear blue nylon overalls and were only eligible to join the company pension scheme at age 31!!
Q4. Within the STEM field, who inspired you most to follow your career path?
It was never a consideration on my career path. To the contrary, at secondary school we had a female maths teacher who, with the benefit of hindsight, had struggled to come to terms with a new maths syllabus. I recall one day deciding that I really wanted to understand this new maths and asked loads of questions. In frustration the teacher berated me in front of my classmates. She called me stupid and told me to shut up and stop asking questions. She did so with such voracity I assumed I was innumerate and stopped asking questions and lost all interest in maths and most other subjects. It was only later-as a mature student at Uni- that I realised I actually was far from innumerate. I scored 100% in my first Applied Statistics and Economics exam, and went on to run multi million pound budgets in a FTSE 20 company and co- own a business.
Q5. Writing back to your old self at the age of 14, picking your all-important exam subjects, what would you say to yourself with hindsight?
There are bad teachers, and misguided adults who are not always right. Follow your instincts and NEVER stop asking questions or wanting to learn.