By Rosa Mendoza, President and CEO, ALLvanza

Women have played pivotal roles in driving innovation throughout history, shattering barriers and reshaping the landscape with scientific breakthroughs and transformative technological advancements. However, they continue to face barriers in STEM fields, challenges that require attention and resolution.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is essential to acknowledge the countless women who have made and continue to make significant contributions to technological innovation. Women like Sarah Frances Whiting, who founded a physics laboratory and an astronomy department at Wellesley College. And women like Laura Gomez, the innovative founder of Atipica, a pioneering startup that employs inclusive AI in talent analytics.

Commemorating their impact can inspire future generations of women to pursue their own passions. And it can inspire all of us to make it a priority to seek tangible solutions to the challenges many women continue to encounter in STEM, AI, cybersecurity, and innovation sectors.

Challenges that can impede women’s progress and equal involvement and opportunity in the innovation sectors include but are not limited to:

Gender bias and discrimination in hiring and promoting.

Lack of representation in leadership positions within innovation/STEM focused organizations and/or companies.

Gender pay gap, women, particularly in innovation/STEM fields, often earn less than their male counterparts for similar work.

Limited access to networking and mentorship opportunities, which can be vital for career advancement.

Unsupportive work environments, including environments that don’t address harassment and gender biases.

Balancing work and family responsibilities, particularly due to limited parental leave policies and/or childcare options.

Stereotypes and societal expectations that discourage girls from pursing STEM education and careers.

Underrepresentation of women in innovation/STEM-related fields such as engineering and computer science.

Implicit biases in research and innovation processes, leading to products and technologies that may not adequately consider the needs and perspectives of women.

Lack of recognition and visibility for women’s contributions to innovation/STEM fields, perpetuating the notion that innovation is primary driven by and for men.

Combating gender bias and promoting gender equity in STEM/innovation fields requires effort and collaboration across various stakeholders, including policymakers, employers, educators and individuals within the STEM/innovation community. Multifaced approaches that can address systemic barriers and promote inclusivity include:

-Blind recruitment processes to mitigate unconscious bias during hiring.

-Clear criteria for promotions to ensure fairness and transparency.

-Training for decision-makers on recognizing and addressing biases in their evaluations.

– Mentorship programs, where experienced women professionals offer guidance and support to aspiring female counterparts to help bolster their confidence and career advancement.

– Policies that ensure diverse representation on boards and executive teams.

-Pay equity audits to identify and address disparities.

-Salary transparency within organizations and policies that prohibit salary history inquiries during the hiring process to prevent perpetuating existing pay gaps.

-Networking events and professional development workshops, specifically tailored to women in STEM/innovation.

-Inclusive work environments with stringent policies against discrimination and harassment.

-Culture of respect and inclusivity through leadership messaging and organizational values.

-Flexible work arrangements, including teleworking and flexible hours.

-On-site daycare facilities and flexible parental leave policies.

-STEM role models and diverse career pathways in STEM fields.

– Early exposure to STEM fields through educational initiatives and outreach programs targeting young girls to help ignite interest and lay the groundwork for future success.

-Confronting gender stereotypes and providing equal encouragement and support for girls interested in STEM/innovation.

-Scholarships, grants and internships specifically aimed at supporting women in pursuing careers in STEM, cybersecurity, and innovation can help alleviate financial barriers and increase representation.

-Diversity and inclusion initiatives and training for all employees.

-Diverse panels and speakers at conferences and events to showcase a variety of perspectives.

By implementing tangible solutions, we can strive towards a more equitable and diverse landscape in these critical sectors. Empowering women in innovation sectors not only benefits individuals but also enriches our collective capacity for innovation and progress. As we continue to strive for inclusivity and equal opportunities, let us remain committed to fostering environments where every aspiring woman can thrive and contribute to shaping the future of technology and innovation.