Digital Business Leader at PwC Singapore
1. What do you do and what is your background in STEM?
Here at PwC, I lead our Digital Business Practice and Risk Assurance Practice. I spend a lot of my time talking to our clients about the impact of emerging technologies, the impact and roots of volatility and the changes and disruption.
A very big part of the role is to have a young, diverse, talented team who can interpret some of the developments we’ll see as part of emerging world trends. Many of them have a functional knowledge gained from a STEM-based learning programme to support advising our clients on the best way to adapt to what is a highly volatile world.
2. Why do you believe in supporting diverse STEM talent?
From our point of view, we’re seeing more and more change. Whether we talk about disruptive industries or emerging technologies, applied knowledge is increasingly important in all that we do to try to improve our industry and, more broadly, trying to address societal problems.
It’s really through the development and encouragement of STEM-based talent that we have the capability to address these problems, from both an industry point of view and an economy point of view.
3. What do you see as the key recruitment & retention?
I think, over the years, our education system has not fully kept pace with the developments we see in the world. To try to bridge that gap from early grounding and the right sort of tertiary education has been challenging in the past. I think what really drives that further is that there’s been a history of not having enough diversity in terms of encouraging a broader sense of education around the STEM industries as well.
This can be seen particularly when you look at female talent coming through and we really need to address and change that and encourage a wide range of diverse talent in the industry. We need to show the STEM-based industries as interesting, exciting and increasingly important as we see other sectors attracting talent away from STEM.
4. How do you believe employers can better attract, secure and retain diverse STEM talent?
I think there are a few things that employers need to do. Our outreach to try to attract new talent needs to be done in a different way than in the past and we need to be a lot more creative in the way we attract talent. If you look historically, we posted an ad, someone came in and if they fitted the criteria we recruited them.
What we see now is that talent is looking for opportunities in different ways – social media, word of mouth and communities play a really big part in encouraging and developing that talent. Employers are starting to realise the fact they’ve got to have much more dedicated programmes to actually attract talent. It’s not just about attracting them with the job, it’s about attracting them with career progression opportunities, development programmes and so on, so people know that they’re going to be continually stretched, developed and pushed in a positive way.
I also think there’s a lot that can be done in the branding aspects of recruiting – how do we make each workplace an attractive place to work, both in terms of the work opportunities and in terms of the environment, the culture and the social responsibility aspect? All these factors are becoming increasingly important.
5. What is your advice to diverse talent looking to join or progress within the STEM sector?
My advice would be to keep your mind open to possibilities and opportunities that come through in the STEM industries. The other important thing is not to be frightened by the technical aspects you need to develop in those areas. There are a lot of very capable people that are perhaps not taking the roles they would in an ideal world. A lot of these talents are very learn-able, there are very good programmes, and I think very importantly, there is going to be a lot more potential for great careers based on STEM educational backgrounds, learning and development.
The other important thing is that you need to be clear about what you’re looking for in your career and ensure you’re getting the right support from your employer. Take ownership of your own career development and make sure that, every two years at least, you’re doing something different that is taking you in a positive direction.
6. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing to get more women into STEM what would you change?
Fundamentally, the biggest dynamic I see at the moment is the impact on teenagers and making sure that we’re engaging with young women as they’re coming through. No one is saying they have to get involved with the STEM industry but I think there are lots of options and it’s about making sure there’s enough awareness of what those opportunities are and working on the branding aspect as well.
I love the Bill Gates saying ‘be nice to nerds because one day you’ll be working for them’. I have a 14-year-old daughter who I love dearly and she has shown a great interest in the creative industries, which I encourage. But I do remind her quite regularly that she’s every bit as capable as anyone in her year to do well in mathematics, science and those other areas as well. I do see some peer pressure in what’s expected of a teenage girl or boy today. Overall, it’s really about addressing the branding and career prospects and making sure that everyone knows that there are opportunities for a diverse range of talent to do exceedingly well based on a STEM-based education.