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Adore Beauty launches STEM scholarship for women

Adore Beauty has established a scholarship aimed at encouraging young women to consider careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – a traditionally male-dominated industry in Australia.

At first glance, it’s a strange fit for the online retailer, but Adore Beauty founder and CEO Kate Morris makes the case for closing the gender gap in Australia’s STEM workforce, where only 16 per cent of qualified graduates are female.

“I studied computer science at school and did some subjects at uni and I found it to be of tremendous value. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not allowed anywhere near our code now, but understanding how technology works is really beneficial. I want women to be a part of that,” Morris told Internet Retailing.

Her aim with the scholarship, which includes $2,000 for tuition fees as well as a month-long paid internship at Adore Beauty, is to change the perception that STEM careers have to involve “a really bloke-y environment”. They could just as easily involve working at Adore Beauty, for instance.

“Every business nowadays has a significant technology aspect to it. In retail, women who study STEM will be well equipped to do well and contribute value,” she said.

According to Dr Michael Myers, OAM, changing the perception about STEM careers is crucial to closing the gender gap. Myers is the founder of Re-Engineering Australia Foundation (REA), an organisation that has been engaged in getting kids interested in STEM since 1998.

“The first thing I would put to you is that getting either boys or girls engaged in STEM is no more difficult than the other. But the value proposition of being engaged in STEM careers has been done incorrectly for girls as compared to boys,” he told Internet Retailing.

Citing research from REA on the motivational drivers behind STEM career choices, Myers said men tend to choose STEM careers based on their personal interactions – who they have met – while women tend to seek out STEM careers based on the opportunities they provide to manage complex situations.

But even though most STEM jobs involve managing huge amounts of data and large teams, Myers said that isn’t how they’re talked about.

“We don’t talk about the fact that STEM careers involve engaging with people and managing and organising. For a long time, we’ve been talking about them as being nuts and bolts jobs,” Myers said.

For Myers, however, this is actually a good thing, because it means the gender gap is easy to fix – in theory at least.

“Getting the knowledge out to a huge audience requires a lot of effort and a lot of people need to take it up. You’ve got to tell it 20 times and 20 times more for people to get it,” he said.

But Jade Collins, co-founder of Femeconomy, an online retailer that encourages people to shop brands that are 50 per cent female-owned or have 30 per cent female boards, believes the lack of prominent female role models is the biggest barrier women considering STEM careers face.

“We have interviewed many female leaders who are CEOs and founders of technology companies, to increase their profile and show girls it’s possible for women to reach the top in those fields,” she told Internet Retailing.

She applauded Adore Beauty’s efforts to close the gender gap in STEM and said more retailers need to be aware of the impact it has on their business.

“If women are not adequately represented equally in STEM fields, it means that those who are solving for customer problems don’t represent the customer base and therefore don’t necessarily understand their needs or motivations very well,” she said.

To apply for the scholarship, students must be in their second or third year at an Australian university, be studying computer science or taking a computer science module as part of another course and identify as female. Applications close on 10 September for 2018.

A version of this story first appeared in Inside Retail Weekly, issue 2147. To subscribe, click here

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