Although there are, of course, huge differences across the region, the Nordics remains a growing market with high trust in technology and a proud history of innovation. It should be a hub for digital skills, given the high demand and incredible opportunities in the region. So why does the Nordics not lead here?
As a millennial woman in technology living in Denmark, I am interested in understanding and supporting the Nordics in improving their digital education and encouraging further women into STEM subjects.
Preventing the brain drain
More needs to be done to encourage uptake in STEM subjects and here both Government and industry can play key roles.
From my own experience, when being taught science in school I had no awareness of the more practical uses for the discipline across all areas of society and business. My view was that the study of science subjects led only to education, research or academia. I had a natural leaning towards both science and humanities, and it was only in higher education, when I studied Health Tech, that I saw the convergence of the two disciplines.
STEM has an image problem, particularly with women, which educators and industry would do well to try to tackle as a quick and easy win. Re-naming subjects with a focus on the practical application of STEM in diverse areas from health to retail and everything in between would be a start and would demonstrate the more inclusive angle to these subjects that can be found. A stronger focus in specialized education, such as my subject – Health Tech – might make STEM more compelling to young children and girls, compared to more traditional courses, such as Computer Science and Software Engineering.
Encouraging diversity within the sector makes real business sense. You cannot build applications and solutions that meet the needs of all citizens without having a broad range of perspectives from the developers producing them.
Much has been made of the impact of Millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce and the practical changes they bring. It is true that as digital natives we have a different mindset toward technology: we trust it implicitly and see it as an integral and immoveable part of our lives.
But the skill we really bring, that is shared with the generation above us, is adaptability. Technology is not static. My generation is learning to live with huge leaps in digital – from social networks becoming a new way to communicate to digital health and remote working – just as the generation before learnt to live with the internet.
However, there are interesting differences in our skill sets and in our expectations for employers. Context switch comes very naturally to us, and we tend to be able to pick up new subjects quickly. This is partly due to the need to constantly adapt and partly down to our willingness to learn and try new things. If there is one thing my generation knows, it’s that everything changes. Fast!
Industry would be smart to look at our demands for the workplace if they want to acquire and keep the best talent and skills. They should also broaden the profiles they search for to encourage further diversity in their workforce and upskill them in digital enabling more multidisciplinary talents.
How employers must adapt
Although highly motivated, millennials expect flexibility and a positive work / life balance. Encouraging people into roles by offering these things makes perfect sense for an employer looking for the best talent. The tech industry can lead the way here with advanced communication and collaboration tools that make flexibility easier.
The Nordics are well-placed to provide and lead the way with more flexibility in the workplace. Across the region, there is a strong digital infrastructure providing great connectivity, high standards of living and progressive social policies that put the needs of employees front and center.
There is no reason that the Nordics should continue to lack digital skills. Some small adjustments – as highlighted above – would bring great benefits to the region and make it a hub for innovation with global clout that is beyond its scale.