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Getting women into STEM starts with girls in schools

There’s no doubt that attracting more women to data and technical roles in insurance and in other sectors is challenging, but things are definitely changing.

The problem isn’t just about gender imbalance in the workplace – it’s about women studying STEM subjects at university, and that’s driven by the number of girls studying STEM subjects in schools. So to make a bigger change, that’s where we have to start. We’re involved in an initiative called Tech She Can, which is all about making STEM subjects more attractive to girls. If we can engage girls aged 10-12, there’s a better chance they’ll continue throughout their learning. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s the best way to address the problem of stereotypes and lack of role models.

We also do a lot of work with the University of Bristol (UOB), attending events organised by societies such as Women in Maths, Women in STEM as well as events organised to introduce tech subjects to young girls and sharing what it’s like to be a data scientist. It’s helped people realise that places like LV= GI offer great opportunities if data and tech are your thing, and it’s an inclusive environment where everyone is welcome.

UOB have run some amazing initiatives in recent years, including a programme that invited girls from secondary schools to work in teams mentored by STEM students from the university, with the objective being to come up with a tech idea for social good. During the week they went to different companies and learned about coding and presentation skills, then at the end they presented their prototypes. I was there with my colleagues to judge the projects, and they were amazing – the ideas they came up with were brilliant. It really got me thinking about how we can harness all this creativity, and it felt so refreshing to see young girls enjoying doing something ‘techy’. We need more events like this to show girls that STEM subjects can be fun, creative and rewarding. And the younger we start, the better.

Attracting more women into businesses is about inclusivity and access, but it’s also about creating an environment where everyone can thrive. It’s about things like flexible working, maternity benefits and parental leave, but also about acknowledging the need for work/life balance. The Coronavirus pandemic was a great example of LV= GI stepping up and saying ‘your family is the most important thing, everything else can wait.’ People value flexibility at different times in their careers, and it’s great to know the support is there.

Focusing more on my team, the way we choose new team members has nothing to do with gender or background; it’s about how people approach problems, how they communicate, how they align with the LV= GI values as well as our team values. However, having a diverse Data Science team as we do, in my opinion creates a really positive dynamic.

When I was growing up in Turkey the gender imbalance in STEM never occurred to me, it was only when I moved to the UK to do my Masters and my PhD that it became apparent. It is a bit annoying to see people assume I’m a male Data Scientist called Merv, because the default is male in this sector and my name is a bit unusual in the UK. But I’m always happy to correct them, and I’m also delighted to be doing my bit to redress the balance!

Merve Alanyali
Lead Data Scientist

Find out more about working in Data Science at LV= GI or email DSResourcing@lv.co.uk if you have any questions.