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Telecoms firms launch Stem mentoring scheme for girls

BT joins Ericsson, O2 and Vodafone to create a mentoring scheme encouraging girls into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers

BT has joined forces with Ericsson and mobile network operators (MNOs) O2 and Vodafone to launch a mentoring programme to encourage girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) careers.

The companies are launching the scheme – "Step into Stem" – ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2016. The programme will bring together women’s networks from each of the four communications organisations, in partnership with the Girls Talk London organisation – a scheme that aims to empower women to learn from others in senior business roles.

With a recent Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) survey revealing that just 9% of UK engineers are women – and 60% of parents oblivious to the opportunities – the BT-led scheme targets girls in Year 12 (aged 16-17).

“Even though girls study the relevant subjects in school, only a minority go on to pursue careers in this area,” said BT Women’s Network chair, Paula Constant, who is also director of field, business and Ethernet connections at Openreach.

“This issue needs to be addressed and we’re really excited about the role we can play in inspiring and supporting female school leavers who may be considering a career in Stem. There are numerous opportunities at BT for women who want to pursue a career in engineering, cyber security or technology.”

“Far too many young people maintain the belief that these types of careers are more suited to men. Clearly there are some outdated myths that need busting,” added Derek McManus, chief operating officer and board member for diversity and inclusion at O2. “The truth is there’s a whole myriad of exciting Stem roles out there in industries as diverse as fashion, sport and music.”

Read more about women in Stem

Plans for mentoring scheme

The pilot programme has been running for a month, and has seen Girls Talk representatives meeting with pupils at four London schools, King Solomon Academy in Wesminster, St Michael’s Catholic School in Southwark, Heathcote School in Waltham Forest and Our Lady’s Convent School in Hackney.

Girls Talk said it had already received, reviewed and followed up on a number of applications for the programme, and has now moved forward and selected 20 pupils, who have been matched with a mentor from one of the companies involved in the scheme. They will receive one session a month with their mentor through to October 2016, alongside a full week of work experience in July.

Although the scheme is initially a pilot, all four companies said they hoped to be able to roll it out across the UK through further collaboration.

BT is already highly active in Stem promotion and is a major supporter of the Barefoot Computing programme, which helps teachers learn how to teach coding. It is also sponsoring 75 places on the IET’s Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Programme, which has guaranteed half of the funded scholarships to women.

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