Guest, Shamira Sanghrajka
Originally from the United Kingdom, Shamira Sanghrajka has received national and industry-wide recognition for her work promoting diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Currently an MBA student at Wharton School of Business and co-founder of 1 Million Women in STEM (1MWIS), her mission is simple: to highlight one million women working in STEM so they can act as role models for the next generation. “I studied history, I’m not an engineer”, Sanghrajka told DesignMakePlay, “when I decided I wanted to venture into tech professionally, I realized just how many barriers women face”.
The misconception is often that you need to know how to code or have a lot of experience, when in reality you do not need all that to find your place in the industry. “It didn’t stop me from working in tech. There are a lot of jobs that relate without needing the technical expertise you think are necessary”. Stereotypes that suggest STEM fields are not creative, or that you need a degree in engineering to work in STEM are just plain wrong. As Manager of Innovation at Ernst & Young Global (EY), Sanghrajka helped develop and implement artificial intelligence backed technology to aid in the firm’s Transaction Advisory Service practices.
When asked how educators can go about giving young women a platform to pursue these professions, Sanghrajka said it is all about exposure. On one hand, educators can increase the secondary exposure in terms of what these professions look like to both boys and girls, providing mentorship and actionable advice while doing so. On the other hand, students can find inspiration by actually trying things out and learning through action, a common theme we encourage here at Zen Maker Lab. Increased globalization and the advent of the internet have made resources for learning very accessible. Hackathons and case contests are just a couple of examples of learning opportunities students can benefit from.
Empirical evidence suggests that women leave STEM careers at disproportionately higher rates than men. Sanghrajka believes a big part of this has to do with the culture prevalent in many workplaces. Work-place culture may not always provide the support women can rely on or in many cases work against them. A 2018 article by Becka Robbins and Brendan Miller of Cloud City Development states that women and other minority groups often vacate the tech industry due to micro-aggressions and perceived unfairness. Furthermore, recent data provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency suggests that just 35% of students pursuing a higher education related to STEM in the UK are women. A 2019 Statistics Canada press release titled “Gender Gaps: The Effects of Pay Transparency and Women in STEM Occupations” also revealed that among STEM graduates, men were almost 20% more likely to work in their field than female counterparts.
She goes on to elude that men who do care about equity and advocate for their female colleagues do help a lot though, and deserve to be recognized.
Sanghrajka’s campaign has featured over 2000 women working in STEM across 75 countries, and she works tirelessly with her dedicated team to reach her ambitious goal of 1 million.
Know a female professional working in STEM? Nominate them to be featured on 1MWIS at https://www.1mwis.com/. You never know who may be inspired.
Follow 1MWIS on Twitter and Instagram @millionstem for more information!