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How global tech giant DellEMC encourages women to stay the course

A PROGRAMME designed to support females studying STEM subjects has been described as “life-changing” by one of the first students to benefit.
Vardah Malik is one of 26 women studying STEM courses in Glasgow and was selected to take part in the STEMAspire programme launched by global technology giant DellEMC.

Its Scottish version of the project began in November last year with the aim of encouraging and empowering female students to graduate in their chosen STEM subjects by identifying transferable skills to enable successful and rewarding careers in the technology industry.

Research shows that nearly a third of women who begin a course in STEM subjects drop out or switch to another line of study before graduation. In order to address this, students from City of Glasgow College, University of West of Scotland and Glasgow Caledonian University were paired with mentors, who provided guidance on how to bridge the gap between higher education and a workplace environment.

Due to its success, the programme is to embark on its second year with DellEMC launching its largest programme to date in Glasgow on October 24, supporting 52 students and extending to the University of Strathclyde. 
Mark White, site lead for DellEMC Scotland said the aim was to assist women as early as possible in their studies as retention is a key element of the programme. 

“We meet a lot of women who have decided to buck the trend and gain an education in a STEM topic, but we’ve been increasingly concerned by the number of them who, during their education, decide to look at other careers,” he said.

“The gender imbalance in technology does improve every year, but this is being hampered when female graduates get some experience of working in our industry and decide it’s not for them. 

“The feedback we receive is all too-often based around just how male-dominated the industry feels.”
STEMAspire was brought to Scotland following the project’s successful launch in Cork, where the programme was created in response to “alarming rates” of female students dropping out of computer science courses.

The initiative comes as Scotland’s IT sector struggles with skills shortages which many expect will be exacerbated by Britain’s exit from the European Union. Industry leaders say there are too few students coming through, particularly females.

DellEMC employs around 550 people in Scotland – 450 in Glasgow and 100 at the SecureWorks facilities in Edinburgh. Around a quarter of its employees are women as diversity and inclusiveness are a focus of the company. Vardah Malik who is studying IT at City of Glasgow College said the support and guidance she has been given has been “truly life-changing”.

“My mentor, Pam Lister, works hand in hand with me on my career aspirations and supports my study goals,” she explained. “I have been fortunate to be introduced to a network of supporters in DellEMC who are willing to invest in my development in the IT Industry. I am really excited and fortunate to be a part of this amazing programme as well as gaining more knowledge and confidence by being around all these amazing people in DellEMC.”
Pam said becoming involved in the programme was a “no-brainer”.

“It is clear that schools offer STEM subjects as part of their curriculum, where we see there is a high uptake of STEM subjects by females at this stage in their lives, which is great,” she said. 

“However, this number significantly drops when it comes to higher education choices and there after a dramatic drop when planning or considering a career in technology.

“This is where the DellEMC Glasgow STEMAspire programme is leading the gender balance issues with a 12-month mentoring programme – to encourage STEM females students to remain in industry and inform them of the great job diversity available in technology.” Pam said she had also gained new skills by becoming a mentor.

“Over the course of the past ten months, as a mentor, I have developed my communication skills, realised my leadership skills and expanded my social media understanding and user skills,” 
she said.

“I meet with Vardah, every month and we spend time going through her goals – short and long term. We meet in the DellEMC Glasgow office, have some lunch and talk about her next steps, key objectives and what I can do to support these.
“I find the benefits of being a mentor exciting. They allow me to share my expertise, exercise my leadership skills, expand my network and obtain fresh perspectives while investing in our organisation’s future.”

DellEMC will be launching its 2018 STEMAspire programme in Scotland on October 24 at its offices in Glasgow.