Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Charley Rogers is the editor of Education Technology, based in Bristol. A native of South Wales, Charley completed an undergraduate MA at the University of St. Andrews, followed by a postgraduate MA at Cardiff University. Personal interests include neuroscience and virtual reality, tech-heavy cyberpunk sci-fi, and the maintenance of a healthy book obsession.
What does your current job role entail?
I am the editor of Education Technology, a bi-monthly online and print publication covering edtech for the entire education sector. I plan content, commission articles, write features, and attend edtech events and conferences to bring all the latest news in the edtech sector to teachers, lecturers, headteachers, and IT directors in education.
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you? What are the challenges of being a woman in STEM industry?
For me, #WomenInTech means celebrating the female contribution to a male-dominated industry, and encouraging young women to have the confidence to enter into STEM careers should they choose.
Often the challenges of being a woman in STEM seem to be grounded in societal norms, and the idea that science, engineering, and mathematics are ‘subjects for men’. The issue of being taken seriously in the workplace, and building and maintaining a career around family commitments also appear to affect women more heavily than men. Again, as societal mores develop through movements such as #WomenInTech, hopefully so shall these issues become easier.
How do we get more girls into STEM and what are the key challenges and issues that need to be addressed before we even start solving the problem?
One of the key issues in encouraging girls and young women into STEM is the approach taken, and the dialogue that is built. Although encouraging women into the STEM industries is important and beneficial to society as a whole, there is always a risk of introducing positive discrimination, and doing more damage than good by making women feel as though they may have succeeded due to their gender, rather than their talents. This is exactly what we want to avoid.
The issues of confidence and access to career knowledge are also key players in this discussion. These not only affects women, but also larger demographics, and as such the #WomenInTech movement could happily work in tandem with other outreach programmes to tackle this issue more widely.
Would you say companies and organisations are doing enough to encourage women to pursue their career in STEM? What's role of education here?
The recent focus on gender equality across companies and organisations in the UK and further afield means that there is encouraging exposure for this cause. However, again, a lot of the issues that prevent women from entering into STEM are systemic rather than organisation-specific, and as such education plays a huge role in preparing girls to tackle whatever career path they choose, and making sure they are confident in doing so, mistakes and all.
In your opinion, what will be the key trends in the STEM industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
It’s always tough to imagine the future of tech, since it moves so quickly, and there are so many great minds out there coming up with innovative projects. But based on current developments, I think a continuation of the push for more women in STEM is incredibly likely, and also a focus on how to continue to use tech for general life wellbeing and balance – definitely a huge issue in the western world! In general, I think the STEM industry will continue to grow at this rapid rate, and we will see our world become ever more symbiotic.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all women in STEM, but also female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Keep trying! So many women are plagued by perfectionism, and the feeling that they need to be the role model Everywoman in STEM to prove a point, but that’s not the case. Part of getting to where you want to be is failing, and learning to get over it, to get around it. I think having the confidence to give things a go means you’re so much more likely to reach your goals, no matter what they are.
Also, surrounding yourself with a supportive network of people who understand what you’re trying to do is invaluable. This might be a group of other women in STEAM, a friend who is always there for you, or a strong family network. These people might be local to you, or might be on the other side of the world – it doesn’t matter! Chat over Skype, email each other, or meet up for coffee. The important part is knowing there’s someone out there that has your back.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in STEM / STEAM?
Dr. Frauke Pelz, Associate Specialist in Medical Genetics at the Institute of Medical Genetics in Cardiff, Dr. Ashwaq Muharram, a Yemeni doctor providing aid to residents of war-torn Yemen, and Jessica Sandler, PETA’s Vice President for Regulatory Testing.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.