BT, Ericsson, O2 and Vodafone join forces to promote STEM careers to schoolgirls ahead of International Women's Day


BT, Ericsson, O2 and Vodafone have joined forces to introduce a new pilot mentoring scheme to encourage schoolgirls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers.


BT, Ericsson, O2 and Vodafone have joined forces to introduce a new pilot mentoring scheme to encourage schoolgirls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers. Women’s networks from each of the four major companies have been working together on the pilot in partnership with Girls Talk London, an organisation which aims to empower women to learn from others in senior roles in business.

Research from the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) recently revealed that only nine percent of engineers in the UK are women. In the same survey, 60% of parents said ‘they did not know how many opportunities there were for girls and women in engineering’.1

The new scheme, known as ‘Step into STEM,’ is being celebrated tonight at an event at the BT Tower ahead of International Women’s Day which takes place on Tuesday 8 March.

In February, programme leaders from Girls Talk London encouraged applicants who are in Year 12 from four schools across the capital – King Solomon Academy in Westminster, St. Michael’s Catholic School in Southwark, Heathcote School in Waltham Forest and Our Lady’s Convent School in Hackney to apply for the scheme.

Over the past month, there have been over 60 applications, which have been reviewed by Girls Talk London. The agency also conducted interviews with the candidates.

Twenty school pupils have been selected and matched with a mentor from each of the businesses involved. The girls will receive one session a month with their mentor up until October, as well as a full week of work experience in July.

The scheme is initially a pilot but all four companies have big ambitions for the programme and hope it can be rolled out across the UK through further collaboration.

BT already has a vast Tech Literacy programme across the country, having supported the Barefoot Computing programme which shows school teachers how to teach coding to their pupils. Last year the company also announced that they will sponsor 75 places on the IET’s Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Programme, with half of the funded scholarships guaranteed for women.

Paula Constant, chair of BT’s Women’s Network and Director of Field, Business and Ethernet connections at Openreach and said: “This scheme could make a real difference in encouraging girls to apply for jobs that require STEM skills. Research shows that even though girls study the relevant subjects in school, only a minority go on to pursue careers in this area.

“This issue needs to be addressed and we’re really excited about the role we can play in inspiring and supporting female school leavers who may be considering a career in STEM. There are numerous opportunities at BT for women who want to pursue a career in engineering, cyber security, or technology.”

Melina Kalandaridis, UK Finance Controller and Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Western and Central Europe, from Ericsson said: “The Step into STEM programme gives Ericsson the opportunity, together with our customers, to encourage girls to choose STEM subjects and increase female talent in our industry. Diversity and inclusion is a business priority for Ericsson and as a leading communications technology company, we feel we have an important role to play in this area.”

Derek McManus, O2 Chief Operating Officer and Board Champion for Diversity & Inclusion said: “Our research revealed that many girls haven't yet considered a career in tech or STEM and it’s an issue which is becoming deeply engrained from a young age. Far too many young people maintain the belief that these types of careers are most suited to men. Clearly there are some outdated myths that need busting.

“The truth is there’s a whole myriad of exciting STEM roles out there in industries as diverse as fashion, sport and music. Roles that are rewarding for both young men and young women. We’re proud to be joining forces with BT, Ericsson and Vodafone to showcase what’s on offer, supporting and inspiring the next generation of female STEM talent.”

Vodafone Group Head of Diversity & Inclusion Karina Govindji said: “The pilot will not only give female pupils valuable mentoring and work experience within STEM, but will also raise awareness of engineering as a credible, attractive career option for young women. The telecoms industry represents an excellent opportunity for women to start and develop a career in STEM, and Vodafone is delighted to participate in this scheme.”

Notes to editors

1 Engineering UK 2016, p. 71

About BT

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. Following the acquisition of EE on 29 January 2016, BT consists principally of six customer-facing lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, EE, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

For the year ended 31 March 2015, BT Group’s reported revenue was £17,979m with reported profit before taxation of £2,645m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

For more information, visit www.btplc.com.

About Ericsson

Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society - a world leader in communications technology and services. Our long-term relationships with every major telecom operator in the world allow people, business and society to fulfill their potential and create a more sustainable future.

Our services, software and infrastructure - especially in mobility, broadband and the cloud - are enabling the telecom industry and other sectors to do better business, increase efficiency, improve the user experience and capture new opportunities.

With approximately 115,000 professionals and customers in 180 countries, we combine global scale with technology and services leadership. We support networks that connect more than 2.5 billion subscribers. Forty percent of the world's mobile traffic is carried over Ericsson networks. And our investments in research and development ensure that our solutions - and our customers - stay in front.

Founded in 1876, Ericsson has its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden. Net sales in 2015 were SEK 246.9 billion (USD 29.4 billion). Ericsson is listed on NASDAQ OMX stock exchange in Stockholm and the NASDAQ in New York.

About Vodafone Group

Vodafone is one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies and provides a range of services including voice, messaging, data and fixed communications. Vodafone has mobile operations in 26 countries, partners with mobile networks in 57 more, and fixed broadband operations in 17 markets. As of 31 December 2015, Vodafone had 461 million mobile customers and 13 million fixed broadband customers. For more information, please visit: www.vodafone.com.

About O2

O2 is the commercial brand of Telefónica UK Limited and is a leading digital communications company with the highest customer satisfaction for any mobile provider according to Ofcom. With over 25 million customers, O2 runs 2G, 3G and 4G networks across the UK, as well as operating O2 Wifi and owning half of Tesco Mobile. O2 has over 450 retail stores and sponsors The O2, O2 Academy venues and the England rugby team. Read more about O2 at www.o2.co.uk/news.


Telefónica UK Limited is part of Telefónica Europe plc (a business division of Telefónica SA) which uses O2 as its commercial brand in the UK, Slovakia, Germany and the Czech Republic



About Girls Talk LondonGirls Talk London connects young girls and women with senior women and men in various professions through informal events, programmes, an interactive website and online TV channel. Our aim is to increase the number of young girls and women entering competitive industries & to ensure they are equipped with advice and the skills to progress into senior roles within their chosen professions.