Overcoming barriers to flower in STEM

Lauren Boys, working towards being a digital consultant with technology consultants, Sopra Steria, has words of wisdom to offer young women looking to follow in her footsteps

What does your job involve?  

I am currently on a graduate training programme, working towards being a digital consultant with technology consultants, Sopra Steria. I work in the defence department; a new sector for me, but one I find incredibly rewarding, with no two days the same. I especially enjoy liaising with my clients, learning how best to work with each of them, and working on interesting and fulfilling projects.

What is your favourite part of the role?

Getting to learn about my job in a very practical, hands-on way. I get to work directly with clients while simultaneously working alongside Sopra Steria’s technology teams to figure out the best solution. Day-to-day could entail anything from writing up an options paper on transformative technology to conducting research, or joining other teams looking at tech-based, innovative projects.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

A personal one, involving taking steps towards being braver when faced with new opportunities. As soon as I was accepted onto the programme, I made it my mission to find new connections and moments to find new work from all over the business to further my development.

Fostering an environment of togetherness and collaboration, where everyone has a voice, will make the industry even better

What inspired you to do what you do?

I have always been interested in technology and fascinated by the way it can be used to make a real difference in people’s lives. That’s why it was important for me to find a position that would help further my curiosity, as well as advance my career.

Which subjects at education level led you to your role?

I initially studied politics and sociology at Cardiff University – not your traditional STEM subjects. However, during my studies I took a handful of digital technology and Internet governance modules, which helped me craft a route to a digital career.

When you were considering your options, who influenced you either way?

My greatest influence came from the university lecturers on my digital technology modules. They were so passionate about technology and internet governance that it rubbed off on me and helped me find a defined career within technology.


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Were there any barriers to STEM in education?

Although I didn’t take a STEM subject, I believe I was incredibly lucky to attend a very progressive school where every opportunity was afforded to all students, regardless of subject or background. I did see many girls taking STEM subjects, though, and it wasn’t seen as out of the ordinary at all.

What would you say to girls considering their education options?

I would encourage young girls to indulge even the smallest interest in STEM subjects, because there is no telling where that path may lead. The first ever software programmers were all women because it was seen as a less valuable skill, but as soon as society started to value it, women were displaced. The more we encourage people of all genders and backgrounds, the more we will foster new ways of thinking and innovating. Representation matters, and the more work we do now to increase it, the closer we come to overcoming educational and career barriers.

STEM is still largely seen as male, and this puts young women off before they’ve even considered the great things they can accomplish

What might put young women off a STEM career? And how can these barriers be overcome?

Unfortunately, there are still many reasons why young women might be put off from a career in STEM. In my opinion, one of the biggest is how the industry is viewed – it is still largely seen as male, and this puts young women off before they’ve even considered the great things they can accomplish. While it can often be hard to overcome these barriers, especially ones that are so heavily engrained in society, pioneering women are challenging this status quo, making it easier for younger ones to follow a STEM career. This is already having a knock-on effect as, when more young women join STEM, more will follow.

What needs to change to retain more women in STEM careers? 

From my experience, positive changes are already happening. However, more can certainly be done. Having taken up my role at Sopra Steria, I can see first-hand the contribution women make to a workplace, and how skills of all types and disciplines can be nurtured to create something fantastic. This is what organisations need to do more of. Fostering an environment of togetherness and collaboration, where everyone has a voice, will make the industry even better. I am at the beginning of my journey, but I hope one day to be in a position where I can bring anyone into my team and make them feel welcome.

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