On May 16th the first official event of the STEM by Women Association was held in Turin, chaired by Barbara Preti, HR Director of Avio Aero. This associative network aims to foster courses and careers for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), an area of knowledge traditionally associated with a strongly male domain.
Avio Aero cooperates in STEM by Women with academic institutes such as the Polytechnic University of Turin and the University of Turin, but also with international organizations such as Alstom, Amazon, CNH, Comau, Comsoft, Eurosearch Consultants, FCA, GM, Kairos, Italgas, ITT, NC Componenti, Pininfarina, Prima Industrie, TopCon, and Torino Wireless. All together to break down the prejudice that STEM subjects are "men's things".
During the first meeting at the Unione Industriale in Turin, more than 200 young participants had the opportunity to collect the testimonies of different HR Directors and Executives of the associated companies and to meet twenty "role models": female professionals and business managers who passionately and successfully work in the STEM fields.
"Some time ago, our company was looking for engineers to take on management’s key roles and I would have liked to have chosen women. Those who, like us, make innovation their business know that innovation is born from comparison, from different points of view, experiences and mindsets. Because, as is still too often the case in the working world, these roles are predominantly occupied by men in our company, I turned to a head hunter”, says Barbara Preti. "I still remember the head hunter’s response as if it were yesterday: “You're looking for a needle in a haystack”. That expression convinced me of the need to do something concrete to change this situation. For this reason, together with other women who strongly believe in us, we have founded the first Association dedicated to the development of STEM careers in Italy.”
In addition, Preti says that STEM by Women was born from the combination of two particular factors: "heart and the search for skills”. The first factor is due to a strong feeling of responsibility, passion and understanding for the female population that unites Barbara and all her members, but this driving force is combined with a global need to improve the gender gap that is very evident in various fields, including STEM, where the under-representation of women has become a big wake-up call.
Barbara Preti's goal is to create a solid dialogue on three different yet interconnected fronts: with female students, colleges, and companies. On the one hand there is the desire to make STEM professions known to female students. On the other hand, is the desire to design appropriate academic pathways along with colleges to prepare young people for the professions of the future, which will increasingly require technical and scientific skills. Thirdly, to establish a dialog with other companies to question their corporate culture and to exchange best practices for a better future.
“We need to imagine companies in which conditions can be created, not only to welcome, but also to continue to develop skills with a view to diversity and to put together different perspectives to bring innovation and success to companies”, stresses Barbara Preti. "If you innovate, you understand that it is really important to have very different teams able to bring different perspectives, ideas, and experiences. The best solutions come from comparing the ideas of different team members. This is the pure vision of Avio Aero"
The HR Director of Avio Aero then confesses to dreaming of a future where the theme of the association is no longer "an issue", imagining a future in which there will naturally be such diversity that there will be no need to create associations or meetings dedicated to issues of this kind. "The future I believe in is one where inclusion and diversity are part of the culture not only of our company but also of our country", concludes Preti.
"We need to imagine companies in which conditions can be created, not only to welcome, but also to continue to develop skills with a view to diversity, to bring innovation and success"
STEM by Women is an opportunity to change something, to influence the community, and to create a socio-economic impact that aims not only to improve the scientific and technological sector and companies within it, but more generally to reflect on the issue not by closing it inside a mere gender issue.
This is what Elena Grifoni Winters, Head of Cabinet at the European Space Agency, and an exceptional speaker at this first meeting, suggests. She believes we need to draw attention to this issue as a real social challenge: "Overcoming limits is what has brought us where we are. It is what distinguishes and has always contributed to our species being able to meet and overcome continuous challenges".
"This is the first in a series of events in which STEM by Women will promote science subjects among female students", says Licia Devalle, Vice President of the Association. "The aim is to create various moments of inspiration and motivation so that women can embark on STEM careers and make responsible college choices while building their future in the best possible way. In the coming months we will create a working table of female students to collaborate with the Association, we will present the results of surveys delivered respectively to companies and female students on STEM issues for women, and, finally, we will start a training project with about 15 high schools, thanks to collaboration with the Regional Council on Equal Opportunities.”
Video in this page is courtesy of PoliTo Life, Politecnico di Torino