Women in STEM

Why the environmental science sector needs more women

With pay gaps and inequality in the workplace remaining a hot topic, how does our sector compare with a close relative like technology?

Environmental sciences and technology are both rapidly growing sectors with big futures thanks to innovation and research. And both sectors have vast impact on the commercial and domestic worlds.

However, unlike technology, the environmental sciences sector lacks support networks and inspiration for women.

According to the Guardian, in a report featured in May 2014, women still struggle with top ranking and leadership roles, and there is a disconnect between the values women seek at work and what the technology sector offers. However, some more recent reports highlight investment in mentoring women in technology.

So it could be argued that while the technology industry still complains of a lack of progress in equality, a quick search online shows there is plenty of conversation about it.

Additionally, while support networks like www.womenwhocode.com and www.womenintechnology.co.uk encourage and inspire progress for gender equality in the technology sector, there is a less visible offering of education and support for women in environmental sciences. Could the environmental sciences community take inspiration from those in technology?

Zara Glew, managing director of Environmental Energies, agrees: “Commentary from women in our sector is less visible, so we want to encourage more women to give their valuable input. A balanced perspective and contribution from both genders plays a vital role in the global environment and sustainable challenges that we face.

“Our planet’s long-term health depends on renewable solutions, likewise, the industry offers the commercial world an opportunity to get healthier, both financially and environmentally.

“With the chance to offset greenhouse gas emissions and carbon taxes and better manage energy costs, environmental science organisations are always in need of fresh perspectives. By isolating women from our industry, not only do we miss out on this fresh perspective we also limit the brainpower needed to make a difference. When we isolate our industry from women, we miss out on half the brainpower.

“By recognising that environmental solutions require diverse intellectual input, as well as physical, we open up a whole new world of valuable contribution from women.”

Zara Glew has recently been nominated and shortlisted for two awards by Forward Ladies, this year’s “Biggest ever women in business awards.” In addition to being shortlisted for SME Business of the Year (Emerging), Zara Glew and her company Environmental Energies Ltd has made it to the final three in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Business of the Year Award.

Interestingly, Forward Ladies recently argued “The UK is facing a drastic shortage of skills” in the engineering sector, pointing out that “our failure to inspire girls” in the field is limiting the sector financially and intellectually.

Forward Ladies’ recognition of women in business, and particularly in specialist sectors like science, technology, and engineering are not afraid to put the spotlight on these gaps.

By encouraging more conversation, we can inspire more focus on opportunities for women to learn more about environmental sciences and open pathways to experience a fulfilling career in the sector.

Posted December 22, 2015