Women at Colt address gender imbalance by mentoring the next generation

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Jenni Sach, global co-lead of Women+@Colt, shares her thoughts on Ada Lovelace day and how Colt is inspiring the next generation.

Ada Lovelace Day celebrates the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). There are many underrepresented groups in these industries – both in education and occupation – especially among women in computer science and engineering where only 1 in 5 students or professionals are female. To address this imbalance and get more women excited, empowered and employed in STEM-based vocations, Colt has partnered with Upskill Me – a platform that pairs with schools in the UK to help 11- to 18-year-olds professionally prepare for their promising futures.

Hosted on the second Tuesday of October each year, Ada Lovelace Day pays tribute to the nineteenth-century mathematician and writer who is regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.

We recently renamed our Women’s Network to Women+@Colt to better represent our mission and the work we do to support all those who identify as women, as well as our allies, to create a gender equal workplace. We want to support gender diversity at Colt and in our industry by encouraging and mentoring the stars of the future.

As part of Upskill Me’s Empowered Females in STEM initiative, a team of women from Colt will be mentoring a group of young girls and non-binary people who are halfway through their A-levels in STEM-based subjects. The initiative fittingly kicks off just after Ada Lovelace Day in October, concluding in March 2023 – not long before International Women’s Day.

These students will take part in an immersive six-month program based in Amazon’s London office where they will attend in-person mentoring, join online skills sessions, hear from masterclass speakers and take part in a sustainability challenge hosted by Dyson. They will receive invaluable insights and knowledge relevant directly to their chosen discipline, equipping themselves with vital experience as they prepare to embark on their careers.

Mentors will have the opportunity of giving to the future generation who are about to enter an underrepresented industry while also building future talent pipelines with well-equipped, inspired young people.

We spoke to some of our mentors about what encouraged them to tutor STEM’s future stars.

Project Manager Victoria Chapman genuinely feels that it’s mere stereotype keeping young women from pursuing careers in STEM. “They just don’t see many role models in the industry; it’s a very underrepresented sector”, she says. She can remember feeling nervous when she started her career in tech, and knowing how daunting that felt is what has inspired her to mentor with Upskill Me. “If I can help make the industry more appealing to young women and less terrifying, I will!”

“We need more role models to come through the ranks to give industries a wider perspective”, says Colt’s Group Financial Controller Azmina Airi, who believes that innovation, inclusivity and diversity are part and parcel. “The female population will have had different experiences to their male counterparts, and with that comes fresh ideas. They can challenge the way things are traditionally done, drawing on those very different experiences – in turn bringing new solutions to the table.”

Acting as a role model to these young students is important to Unix Engineer Martina Donova. “All the mentors I’ve had in my career – both men and women – have inspired me to ‘pay it forward’ and offer others the knowledge I’ve learned that has contributed positively to my career. My grandfather always supported me and encouraged me to pursue what I wanted to do, regardless of my gender.”

All seven who are mentoring this month are paying it back to the next generation. And if they can inspire the next Grace Hopper, Katherine Johnson or Ada Lovelace to then pay it forward to the generation that follows them, one thing’s for certain: the future of women in STEM looks bright.

Head to UpSkill Me’s homepage to learn how you can pay it forward, sign up to attend Ada Lovelace Day in-person or online, or roll to our recruitment page to explore what exciting opportunities there are for those who want to make extraordinary connections.

This blog forms part of the ESG Focus Series – a collection of blogs that explore or develop on themes and findings from Colt’s 2021 Sustainability report.

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Jenni Sach

11 October 2022

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