STEM careers, a source of opportunities and equality
Our society is currently in a profound process of transformation and faces important social, economic, and environmental challenges, among which climate change, high unemployment (especially youth), the increase in inequalities or the consequences derived from the pandemic stand out.
There are no unique or easy solutions to face these great challenges but, if there is something that is essential, it is a combination of decision, attitude, responsibility and, above all, shared and diverse talent.
We are immersed in a technological revolution all sectors. With artificial intelligence and its algorithms as an accelerator of change, we need technical professional profiles that are capable of driving progress before putting, above all, the respect and well-being of people.
Fields of knowledge such as STEM (acronym of the terms in English Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), are currently considered of 'high social utility' and especially necessary to give sustainable, ethical, and inclusive responses to all these challenges.
Thus, in addition to specific knowledge, STEM careers develop an outstanding capacity for reasoning, analysis, and vision to solve complex problems and propose innovative solutions; to drive change in everything that must be transformed. In short, STEM provides an orderly mental structure that, in my opinion, is also applicable and useful in all facets of life.
Despite the need for these types of profiles and their great future, the data tells us that women are not joining STEM studies at the desired pace. According to data from the Ministry of Education, more than 50% of university students in our country are women, although their presence is reduced to23% in the disciplines of engineering and architecture.
Faced with this situation, we need to understand and remove the specific obstacles that keep women out of STEM disciplines. The causes are varied: perceived difficulty of these careers or gender stereotypes. However, I would like to highlight the lack of references with which students can identify.
It is difficult to find names of well-known scientists. Madame Curie in the past or Margarita Salas, more recently. Nonetheless, visibility is a very important factor, as evidenced by the evolution of women's sport that we are currently experiencing. Having women like Teresa Perales or Carolina Marín, serves as a reference and inspiration for girls and for the rest of us, because they exemplify like no one else the fact that 'if you want, you can'.
It is true that, today, women encounter certain obstacles that men do not have, and that we must fight to eliminate those barriers. The most important thing is to see the glass half full. I think we need to be aware that, in developed countries, women generally have a fundamental capacity that not all women in the world have: we can choose.
And there is the key: it is in our hands, and it is up to us to evaluate well the different university careers, not to let ourselves be carried away by the current, to risk and to choose a challenging path, which exploits all our talent and that makes us grow personally and professionally being, in addition, useful to society.
STEM careers do not meet all these requirements but are also full of great job opportunities. They also represent a boost to greater diversity and social equality, as well as a lever of transformation: breaking the well-known 'glass ceiling' and that women definitively access the highest positions of responsibility, from where they are taken the most relevant decisions.
In my case, I chose to study a STEM career which is allowing me to evolve, grow, contribute, build, transform, and innovate. In addition, I feel enormously fortunate to work in a company like Iberdrola, which is not only led by the energy transformation, but has also been a pioneer in an equality, diversity, and inclusion policies, as an essential pillar of its culture and commitment to its human team. Iberdrola stands out for its volume of STEM women. A company which promotes women to management positions, serves as an IBEX benchmark for presence of women on its Board of Directors, and has also been promoting women's sport to promote equality for years.
Let's not forget: we can choose. For the upcoming years, I would like to see a massive incorporation of women to STEM studies, where companies and society can count on the so needed female talent to advance and progress along the right path.
Elena León has been director of the Networks business of the Iberdrola group since 1 November. Born in Madrid, Elena León is a senior engineer of Roads, Channels and Ports from the Higher Technical School of Engineers of Madrid. Master in Water Resources Planning and Management from Colorado State University, USA, and Executive MBA from the Instituto de Empresa, in Madrid, he joined Iberdrola in 2000 and, since November 1, is part of the Company's Senior Management.