Norden Follow-up: Best Practices of Early Interest in STEM in Finland

Together with the Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania, we continue on developing an inclusive tech ecosystem. It is conducted together with the officials from the Baltic States and Scandinavia, and our main goal is to establish the best practices in female leadership across multiple tech fields. During those discussions, the experts from tech, business, governing institutions, and education are sharing their ideas and experiences on best practices there.The workshop in Finland focused on four different pillars, supposed to increase the early interest in STEM subjects amongst young girls. All in all, it’s a multi-layered process, ranging from the very early days at education to the time for career choices. According to our experts, along with well-built guidance, the female leadership in tech and constant support throughout various development stages can increase the growing interest of girls in this industry.

The very first idea has barely anything to do with tech at all: think about strong female characters in books. Surprisingly, such role models can inspire early determination and ambition regarding tech too. It’s all about the understanding of opportunities out there, potential achievement and positive contribution to the society. What’s even more important, talented girls can be involved into the world of tech through encouragement of teachers, family members and other role models. Therefore, it’s crucial to get these female students appropriately guided and directed in the first stages of their interest and development. Additionally, extra-curricular activities giving the opportunity to experience the real world of tech are beneficial. Girls might think they’re not good at tech, and that might affect how they perform in situations where tech is involved. As a result, such girl-only activities can help to provide them with the space where they can explore and get those good experiences as well as feel like they can do it. Major tech companies can support the development there too.

Various internal networks or mentoring programmes can become another efficient way to encourage young female students to select the tech pathway. However, it’s not enough only for women to realize we need the change, as the influence of men is also important.  A lot of people agree that workplace equality has already been achieved and there’s nothing else to do. Of course, anyone can apply to any job, and they must be paid the same amount of money according to the law. But a number of little details come to a big picture, creating many systematic flaws and biases which prevent actual workplace equality. Therefore, the impact of male employees is important as never before, and it should be exercised not only through statements but also through involvement in promoting female leadership in tech starting from the very young age.

Everything starts with the workplace culture: gender quotas are seen as a potential solution, but this may not be efficient in the long term. So in order to promote female leadership in tech, a strong focus should be emphasised on schools and specifically girls considering their academic or career options. Knowledge about the field, real hands-on experience and establishment of everlasting partnerships can work as the combination building a sustainable leadership for the future. The key element there is the demand for working in this specific field. If girls are acquainted with tech from a very early age, they are also more likely to pick this area for their professional development. Insight days, placements, and workshops can work as an initial plan. In addition, female role models become so important in this place, as their positive examples and experiences can inspire young girls to select tech. Finally, displaying and promoting diversity in tech will help to reduce any hiring bias to the minimum.

Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania, together with a Lithuanian mentorship and content sessions programme Women Go Tech, has launched a project “Developing an Inclusive Tech Ecosystem in the Nordic and Baltic Regions” encouraging female participation in the tech sector. With a goal to build a global partnership network, this project facilitates much-needed discussion about best practice examples and experiences in order to help such initiatives grow, collaborate, and scale-up in the Baltic Sea and Nordic Region. More information about the project.