Even though I am a woman with a background in STEM [science, technology, mathematics and engineering], I find myself, like most of the general population, scrolling mindlessly -- for at least an hour -- through my Instagram [IG] feed, or whichever your latest preference is; almost every night.
Before telling myself that I've wasted the most valuable years of my life calculating the triple integral of a cone, while modern women get paid by brand managers to test out fifteen shades of lipstick; I shut my eyes feeling like 15 percent more of a failure.
I am a qualified electrical engineer, I've recently completed an MBA and have held a corporate job for nine years with the same company who awarded me a bursary during my studies [one of the most significant petrochemical companies in the country], whilst being married and raising two busy kids under five; and somehow IG models have helped to devalue all my accomplishments.
We've all heard the stats of the "looming STEM gap" and the need for countries [specifically in Africa] to start addressing their skills shortage within the field.
Why do we hold IG models and the likes in such high regard?
Corporates have started programs to attract more women into the Operations environment, appointed women to positions that were historically occupied by males and started encouraging employees to voice their opinions on the deterring factors of taking on a STEM role.
Yet with all the ceremony and fanfare that comes with these initiatives, no one seems to point to social media. Corporates who have not yet joined the social media revolution probably have very little connection with terms like audience influence rating, engagement ratio and earned reach.
The question that we should be asking to our employers is: how do I, as a woman who has toiled and laboured through a STEM field, convince myself and my daughter that the work I do is of true value? In a world where a person's value is measured by the number of likes on a social media account, where a woman without a degree but armed with a camera and a makeup bag can command an army of women to dunk their faces in a bowl of cold water based on its superiority in setting their foundation [this stuff writes itself, I swear!]
How, in that world, will we convince the next generation of women to spend years learning theorems and principles in order to design and lead expeditions into neighbouring galaxies? An endeavour which may lead to little, if any at all, recognition or reward. Why do we hold IG models and the likes in such high regard?
Well for us "ordinary" folk they market our dreams, our next outfit, our lifelong desires... All with the help of brands. Brands happily support a culture of lavishing their ambassadors in finery, the latest range of eyewear with an entourage of photographers and publicists equivalent to the likes of a lesser known Kardashian.
What if brands channelled their mountains of cash into a campaign supporting a young scientist needing funding to raise awareness and support for her work on curing a life threatening disease?
Why do brands not do the same for a woman in a STEM field? Yes, there are the recent trends of company promos including power shots of females welding and climbing columns; all in the hope of promoting a culture which supports diversity and women in STEM.
Is it sexy? Will it have our daughters breaking down the gates of a lecture room begging to be given the chance to learn how to weld? Would you change career paths based on the whispering of a company that runs a lucrative program for Girls-who-code? No, no and sadly no.
Most brands still maintain the notion that a woman is a pinup, concerned with her appearance, obsessed with competitiveness to greedily rake up followers and promote her next paid-for campaign. What if brands channelled their mountains of cash into a campaign supporting a young scientist needing funding to raise awareness and support for her work on curing a life threatening disease?
What if solving actual problems was positioned as being fashionable? Wouldn't we then have our daughters spending nights thinking about which disease they could cure next?