Women at Colt address gender imbalance by mentoring the next generation

  • Portrait image of the author Jenni Sach.

Jenni Sach, Director of Business Partner Marketing at Colt and global co-lead of the organisation’s Women+@Colt initiative, shares her thoughts on how her team members are inspiring the next generation of women in tech.

The lack of female representation across science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)– both in education and occupation – is well documented. This is especially the case in computer science and engineering, where only 1 in 5 students or professionals are female. To address this imbalance and get more women excited, empowered and employed in STEM-based vocations, Colt has teamed up with Upskill Me – a platform that partners with schools in the UK to help 11- to 18-year-olds professionally prepare for their promising futures.

As part of Upskill Me’s Empowered Females in STEM initiative, a team of women from Colt are mentoring a group of young girls and non-binary people who are halfway through their A-levels in STEM-based subjects. The initiative fittingly kicked off just after Ada Lovelace Day in October 2022, concluding in March 2023 – not long before International Women’s Day.

These students are participating in an immersive six-month program where they are attending in-person mentoring, joining online skills sessions, hearing from masterclass speakers and participating in a sustainability challenge hosted by Dyson. They are receiving invaluable insights and knowledge relevant to their chosen discipline while equipping themselves with vital experience as they prepare for their careers.

Mentors have the opportunity of guiding the future generation while also building future talent pipelines with well-equipped, inspired young people.

We spoke to some of our mentors about what encouraged them to tutor STEM’s future stars.

Project Manager Victoria Chapman genuinely feels that it’s mere stereotype keeping young women from pursuing careers in STEM. “They just don’t see many role models in the industry; it’s a very underrepresented sector”, she says. She can remember feeling nervous when she started her career in tech, and knowing how daunting that felt is what has inspired her to mentor at Upskill Me. “If I can help make the industry more appealing to young women and less terrifying, I will!”

“We need more role models to come through the ranks to give industries a wider perspective”, says Colt’s Group Financial Controller Azmina Airi, who believes that innovation, inclusivity and diversity are part and parcel. “The female population will have had different experiences to their male counterparts, and with that comes fresh ideas. They can challenge how things are traditionally done, drawing on those very different experiences – bringing new solutions to the table.”

Acting as a role model to these young students is essential to Unix Engineer Martina Donova. “All the mentors I’ve had in my career – both men and women – have inspired me to ‘pay it forward’ and offer others the knowledge I’ve learned that has contributed positively to my career. My grandfather always supported me and encouraged me to pursue what I wanted to do, regardless of my gender.”

All seven mentors are paying it back to the next generation. And if they can inspire the next Grace Hopper, Katherine Johnson or Ada Lovelace to pay it forward to the generation that follows them, one thing’s for sure: the future of women and non-binary people in STEM looks bright.

You can read Colt’s 2021 Sustainability report to find out how else the digital infrastructure company has committed to a diverse, equitable future.