Sunday, August 17, 2014

Under STEMulated

Technology is neutral.
It doesn't care who or where you are. If you have viable Internet access via any type of device, then you can participate in this brave new world. Yet there is a strange and persistent gap among males and females in STEM fields. Never mind that males and females use technology at the same rates - the creative thinkers, researchers, engineers, developers, builders, and owners of this brave new world are mostly male.

As a concerned STEM professional and mother of a young daughter, I went digging for details earlier this year and captured what I learned in an infographic - Women in Technology - The Pipeline Challenge.


There are two equalizers in life - the Internet and education

John Chambers, Cisco CEO

There are three main choke points where STEMulation is being impacted for:
  • (1) School Girls
  • (2) College Women
  • (3) Professional Women
The Pipeline Challenge
  • (1) School Girls - Research shows that School Girls often pick up negative queues from their mothers about STEM topics - especially math - as early as four years old. They then enter school where a lack of confidence begins to get reinforced as teachers call on boys more often than girls. Some teachers may also express their own weakness about STEM topics - especially math. It's usually around puberty when girls turn off to the idea of becoming a technology nerd or geek due to peer pressure.

  • (2) College Women - College Women often come to campus with built-in baggage from early childhood, schools, and social environments. By the time they choose a major, less than 5% show an early interest in STEM programs. The others may have sworn off those programs as too hard or too nerdy. They may have also observed their mothers' career choices and results. Though over 50% of all college graduates are female, fewer than 25% of STEM degrees will be awarded to College Women.

  • (3) Professional Women - Professional Women are faced with yet another layer of challenges as they step into the workforce. While women deliver a majority of the working hours, they hold onto a small percentage of senior leadership roles. The STEM pipeline challenge is even more dire as the number of female leadership candidates in STEM companies is miniscule. One female entrepreneur cited that the journey to the C-Suite can take 30 years! Many ambitious, brilliant Professional Women in STEM fields will retire or leave long before the traditional C-Suite becomes a "possibility" for them.

Let's talk about solutions...

There are so many more insights to share and you're probably thinking - what can I do to help? Here's what you can do right now with very little effort:
  • (1) School Girls - If you have doubts about your strength in science, technology, engineering, or math - DO NOT share those feelings with School Girls! Whether you're the parent or not, know that they are listening!!! Let them know that anything is possible if they put their minds to it. Also help to connect them with strong 'Near Peers' who can provide positive STEMulation.

  • (2) College Women - Encourage College Women to find and participate in STEMulating activities around campus. These activities may include something as simple as helping to set up STEM exhibits or connecting with campus 'nerds' during open events. Push them outside of their comfort zones (whatever they may be!) and help them to build new interests in STEM. Show them how by doing it yourself. Emphasize that 'nerds' rule the world!

  • (3) Professional Women - Standard advice is to team up with professional mentors or sponsors. This is sound advice and always will be. Add in a Life Coach as well. Determine what you need to get from the relationships and evaluate what you're willing to give before you begin the screening process. Remember that it's not all about you! Mentors, sponsors, and coaches may need reciprocal support as well. Also, find ways to share or incorporate your skills into multi-disciplinary STEMulating activities in professional associations and community organizations.

STEM Resources

STEM professionals and parents with daughters have an important role to play and undoubtedly are hard at work on solutions. There are countless programs and support systems available. Yet it's difficult to know which ones hold the most promise. If you're stuck, here are three programs per category to get you STEMulated:

While every woman and girl (man or boy) will not develop an interest in pursuing a STEM degree, there is a great need for everyone to understand the impact of STEM on their lives and livelihoods - and how their contributions fit into the STEM landscape...


So let's get STEMulated!

What do you think can or should be done about Women in Technology - The Pipeline Challenge?

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