Sustainability

Women and STEM careers: IBSA and BPW Ticino together, to close the gender gap

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science

To be celebrated on February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an opportunity to take stock of the persistent gender gap characterising female participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines.

Global data indicates that less than 40% of STEM graduates are women. The gender gap is fed by cultural influences and stereotypes rooted in a society undergoing a huge transformation, but still strongly anchored to legacies and roles of the past.

True to its commitment to achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda, in particular that for gender equality, over the years IBSA has been consolidating its support for the Business Professional Women (BPW) Ticino Club, an organisation that is part of BPW International and which has among its objectives the bridging of the gender gap and the protection of women’s interests in the professional field.

BPW and IBSA have in common the values ​​of inclusiveness and well-being of the Person, regardless of their gender.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Dr. Morrone, let’s start from the main theme of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. How can the gender gap in STEM disciplines be reduced?

The social process that aims to rebalance this disparity – and which has just begun – requires a systemic approach operating on multiple fronts. Starting from the need to disseminate – and not only among young women, but above all within the entire society – the awareness that excelling in scientific studies is not a matter of gender, but of determination and will. We need to act on the family and social environment, on an education that is truly inclusive, as well as on the professional settings. It is necessary to raise awareness among the institutions and involve the Legislator so that laws are promulgated that promote a real balance between the sexes.

What does BPW’s commitment materialise in? Can you give us an overview of your initiatives?

BPW is strongly involved at a local level, in Ticino, with training events. For example, we organise workshops in Ticino schools to give girls the opportunity to explore STEM careers. We want to inspire younger generations and show them that science and technology disciplines are accessible and rewarding. We then have an annual event entitled Divertiamoci con STEAM (“Let’s have fun with STEAM”) and an on-going collaboration with the University of Italian Switzerland (USI, Università della Svizzera Italiana) and the Professional University School of Italian Switzerland (SUPSI, Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana). All our activities aim to consolidate the hard skills needed in the world of work – for example the negotiation of an employment contract for a new female hire – but also to provide the so-called soft skills, which are increasingly useful, even in everyday life.

One very interesting area is your mentoring programme. How does it work?

The mentoring programme is a critical pillar of our mission. Our members, many of whom are successful STEM professionals, dedicate some of their time to meeting girls, sharing personal and working experiences. These meetings inspire and offer practical support through personalised advice. We want to guide young women towards their success and show that their talent is valuable.

BPW not only raises awareness, but also promotes female entrepreneurship and financial autonomy. Could you explain to us what the objectives are?

We think that encouraging female entrepreneurship is one of the levers to focus on, so we created several workshops to explain how to draw up a business plan, and also how to manage personal finances. We want young women to feel confident and independent in making financial decisions, both personally and professionally. Autonomy, including economic, is a crucial component to addressing the gender gap.

Do you think that your collaboration with IBSA is important for promoting issues such as closing the gender gap?

For BPW, IBSA is a forward-thinking partner, one which shares our principles and values and is committed to promoting inclusiveness and the protection of the individual, for a fairer and more balanced future.

To conclude, what are BPW’s future goals to reduce the gap, and how can we contribute to building a more inclusive world?

Our future objectives include an increasingly systemic approach; the involvement of both the public and private sectors, at a national and international level; the expansion of local initiatives; and the strengthening of mentoring programmes. Only if we all act together can we build a world where talent and skills are universally recognised, regardless of gender.