The human nervous system consists of two main parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS consists of the brain and the spinal cord, while the PNS is comprised of many nerves of enclosed bundles of the long fibers or axons.

The basic functioning of the nervous system depends on a lot of tiny cells called neurons which have many specialized jobs. The human body cannot function without the CNS as it controls all parts of the body, receives and interprets messages from all parts and transmits instructions causing the body to react.

How is this relevant to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce? If we assume that technology is the globe’s nervous system, we understand its complexity in current and future digital societies across the globe.

One of the major threats we currently face is the misuse of technology. By 2030, digital transformation will have reached critical mass with unprecedented volumes of information available to users through networks across the globe, exposing our critical infrastructures to both threats and opportunities at a pace never seen before. Ensuring that all societies stay ahead of technology threats and leverage it for the good, requires inclusive solutions developed by stakeholders from all backgrounds across all strata of society.

If we look at human nervous systems, the billions of tiny little cells each have a core function that is critical for the well-functioning of the body. Each of these tiny cells has a distinct function and none of them are alike.

Thus, if we compare it to technology, having predominantly homogeneous teams in the STEM workforce with similar backgrounds developing technology solutions in this digital age is a problem. It makes the world’s nervous system weak, vulnerable, suboptimal and ultimately affects its CNS with as a result crippled infrastructure. Sounds dramatic?

WannaCry and the cyber-attacks that followed in the past years seem just the beginning of testing the resiliency of societies across the globe against all kinds of technology threats.

Luckily there is also good news as digital ecosystems of startups and entrepreneurs, small, medium and tech giants are developing cutting-edge technology to ensure CNS and PNS stay intact.

Tech innovation is used across a variety of sectors from health to defence and security, but there is still a long way ahead in tackling the 21st-century technology challenges. Both CNS and PNS requires a comprehensive approach to protecting and nurturing its growth which is based on many different, complex and interrelated parameters. Employing solutions developed by homogeneous teams will not get us very far in staying on top and ahead of the fast-paced technological developments.

I can only speak from my own experience and take as an example the untapped potential for the defence and security sector.

A diverse and inclusive workforce for generations to come

A diverse and inclusive approach is vital in adapting to current and future security challenges and must include a broad ecosystem of stakeholders with different cultural, technical, racial, gender and social backgrounds across the civil-military spectrum. Yet asking a long-ingrained and homogeneous security culture to change and embrace diversity in its broadest sense is an ambitious and complex endeavor.

There are efforts underway reducing the gender gap in the technology sector, which is a promising start. But diversity beyond gender in building an inclusive STEM workforce of next generations who are already tech-savvy is essential. Diversity in its broadest sense which is representative of all strata in society is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing. Just having more people from different backgrounds working in a specific sector to tick the diversity representation box is not enough.

It is well known that diverse teams from all backgrounds are more innovative and productive in producing groundbreaking solutions. Building these teams at all levels and across sectors and societies is what will bring results in my view.

GMF Marshall Memorial Fellow Keerthika Subramanian wrote an insightful piece on the need and urgency of building an inclusive transatlantic workforce for technology.

Building bridges across sectors

Building bridges between government, tech, business sectors and civil society which are highly affected by the rapid technological change will only grow in importance.

More nations should follow Denmark’s example and appoint a TechAmbassador. Casper Klynge and his team are making a real difference in bridging this gap across sectors and foster understanding of the impact technology has on individuals and societies across the globe. You can find out more here on the Danish initiative of #Techplomacy.

On the security side, NATO Allied Command Transformation continues the work of the visionary thought leader General Denis Mercier who was heading the command in the United States between 2015 – 2018. General Mercier has been passionate and driven in tapping into the private and civil society’s full potential to help transforms military’s capacity in this digital era. Disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous systems are evolving faster than we may believe thus the human dimension is as critical as ever. His  article on Innovation is also a must-read. He is now focused on building innovation potential for the private sector based on his longstanding experience in transforming the French Airforce and leading NATO’s Transformation efforts.

These change agents and leaders are acting to ensure the world’s nervous system is protected and societies across the globe are not crippled by the misuse of technology but thrive on its transformational power.

Are you an organization grappling with implementing diversity across all levels in your workforce? Check out our coaching and consulting services and find out how we can help you discover and implement the secret to successful workforce development for the 21st Century!


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