Claudia Nemat, Board Member for Europe & Technology at Deutsche Telekom AG, is a committed ambassador for STEM subjects.
You are personally active in trying to ensure that more young people embark on careers in STEM subjects. Why?
Personally, I always knew that I wanted to study physics. But Germany is not alone in having difficulty finding qualified junior staff with a technical and/or scientific background. Initiatives like STEM to STEAM in the United States show us that specialists in these fields are lacking all over the world. This is a structural problem that is already holding back growth and innovation in certain industries and regions, posing the risk of high losses in added value for national economies. I want to do something to stop it! We can see how important STEM subjects are if we take a look at the trends that keep on emerging. Everything is in some way related to science, technology (including information technology), engineering and math.
Why do young people so seldom opt for a career in STEM fields?
Technical disciplines often scare people off, because at first glance the content can seem complex and difficult. Young people also often associate the idea of a STEM career with pottering around in a cellar, laboratory or windowless room. Plus, it is not very attractive for young women in particular to choose a degree course where 90 percent of the students are men, although in fact they should see that as a chance to stand out from the crowd. Just about all doors are open to a woman with a degree in a STEM subject. Lots of young people associate the idea of a high-flying career with a degree in business or economics, but the labor market today is saturated with graduates in business-related disciplines. We need to promote diversity in companies and make technical professions more attractive.
The question is, how?
We need more role models. We have to work on changing the clichés and prejudices and we need to make STEM careers seem more attractive. And we need to start in our schools. If we don't succeed, then in the future we will have a major lack of experts with a technical background. To guarantee success, we need mixed teams from a variety of cultures, backgrounds and genders in companies. The idea that diversity is important is not just based on intuition; studies have proven that it is also linked to positive results. Diversity enables companies to work in a way that is more creative, more focused on problem-solving, and more efficient. It is essential to create parameters and corporate cultures that promote diversity. That is not possible with a company full of business graduates. We need to change the situation – we need to make STEM subjects cool! I am therefore committed to promoting the potential of young women in particular in the STEM subjects.