The absence of women in STEM in Romania is a missed opportunity (video)

The absence of women in STEM in Romania is a missed opportunity (video)

More female role models are needed in order to increase the number of women in STEM. “Less than 1% of women who have a degree in Romania have a degree in STEM-related disciplines and of these, only one of 1000 actually get a job directly related to STEM,” says Radu Szekely, Secretary of State and Ministry of Education. The absence of women working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics has a negative impact on society at large, as these fields miss out on the perspectives and insight brought by women.

Through our webinar, “Women in Leadership/Tech Driving Change in the Workplace,” we wanted to mark and honour International Women’s Day 2021. We spoke to – among others – Cristina Daianu, Partner & Head of Venture Tech Group at Dentons Romania and Evelina Necula, Co-Founder & CMO of Kinderpedia, an education management platform, about women in STEM and other traditionally male-dominated industries. Romania. Find below the highlights of our conversation:

Gender representation in the legal and STEM industries

Cristina Daianu: Both the sector I work in, the legal sector and the technology sector continue to be male-dominated industries. In light of that, I want to talk about some gender equality strategies implemented by Dentons that have increased gender representation in the legal industry.  At Dentons, we try to have a holistic approach to gender representation and we try to find ways to tackle the subconscious bias that exists in the industry. We want to create more opportunities for women to perfect their leadership skills by encouraging them to take over big projects, which is something that men are usually asked to do so we try to create some balance. We try to stop the leakage of our female talent, which is a big issue that is affecting the legal profession, especially the higher up you go in the company.

Many women decide for an in house career or for other options, so they just abandon the legal profession and we try basically to stop the leakage of female talent at a Senior Associate or Council level. There are some practical aspects that companies need to address to stop the leakage of female talent, such as identifying the challenges they face that can push them to leave the industry. For example, we want to support fathers, so they can take time off and focus on parenting which gives women more space to focus on their careers.

We also look at lateral hires, where men used to be traditionally considered, whereas now we actively consider female candidates. There is much still to be done but with more progressive thinking by companies, we will not only make businesses better but also our society.

Radu Szekely:  Over the last two years, I’ve been talking a lot with Romanian business leaders about the fact that there are not enough women studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or working in those industries. The reason for this is not always entirely clear because girls tend to be more successful in academia in general. In primary or secondary school, even in high school, girls tend to perform better than boys in STEM but then there is a separation. Less than 1% of women who have a degree in Romania, have a degree in STEM-related disciplines and of these only one of 1000 actually get a job directly related to STEM.

My personal view is that the absence of women from these fields affects more than just women. It is a missed opportunity for those fields, because women bring a different perspective that shapes and influences STEM disciplines.

The importance of female role models

Evelina Necula: I started my professional life as a Marketing and Communication specialist, and for a very long time, I did not feel I was treated differently because of my gender – I was not aware of gender inequality in my industry. It took me a while to realise that for over 10 years, I had gradually started conducting business more like my male colleagues than myself because they were the model. The majority of leadership positions in the companies I worked for were men, so they were the leadership models that I had and followed. Even though I was working in companies that were open-minded minded and willing to take progressive steps towards gender equality, there was no acknowledgement of a female approach to business at the time. For my generation, there was actually a misperception of women and of the value that they can bring.

When I became an entrepreneur I realized that I actually had a lot to bring to the table as a woman. For a long time as a professional, I believed I had to be harsh and impose myself but gradually I saw that that mentality I had needed to change. As an entrepreneur, I approached business with empathy, always taking into account other’s points of view and through that, I built committed business relationships. A second aspect I realised needed to change was that believed that I had to do everything. I realised I should let other people help and let others take some of the pressure off my back. I think women in general end up putting too much pressure on themselves, which is actually counterproductive.

I believe there’s still a lot to be done in terms of offering businesswomen a network of support. This is one of the key points I wanted to make today, that we need a network of mentors and female role models. And I believe that this should start in schools, where we need to invest in our teachers. Some of my most important mentors have been teachers and I believe they deserve much more respect for the work that they do.

Watch the full webinar here: