Women’s roles in science, technology, engineering and mathematics have been making headlines lately, and it isn’t all bad news. From the focus on women’s roles in the tech sector at the White House’s recent United States of Women Summit to more and more groups focused on driving greater participation of women in STEM, it’s exciting to see all the work being done to support women in these fields. Despite these moves in the right direction, we’re still a long way from closing the gender gap in STEM. At some leading tech companies, only 10 percent of women occupy tech jobs. Furthermore, a recent study found that only 11.2% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering were awarded to minority women. The numbers are clear – there’s still work to be done.
Initiate a Love of STEM
First things first. When it comes to STEM education, it’s important to start early. Pages upon pages have been devoted to the barriers to STEM education in the United States. Nine out of 10 schools don’t offer computer programming, and only 37 percent of students enjoy their science class. These issues need to be addressed, but there are also resources for parents interested in inspiring their daughters to explore STEM. In fact, 68 percent of teen girls interested in STEM say their fathers played a key role in encouraging them. From building things with your daughter to encouraging her to play with toys that will spark her interest in science and engineering, parents are on the front lines when it comes to early STEM education.
Create Workplace Opportunities
Despite the fact that research shows tech companies excel with women leaders, a recent survey found that at the top U.S. tech companies only 18 percent of women hold leadership positions. Something has to change – it’s time for men to get serious about encouraging equality in tech. Men in STEM industries can start by helping women network, assisting women in their job searches by sharing contacts and, most importantly, speaking up on behalf of women in the workplace.
Convene as Leaders
Finally, we need to take a step back and think about broader systematic issues barring women’s entry into STEM education and professions. At the White House’s recent United States of Women Summit, Mary Wilson Arrasmith, a high school instructional strategist coordinating technical education, commented, “Create an army of folks around you–counselors, teachers–celebrate those different activities and events. It’s important your leadership be fully engaged in the message of equity.” Meetings like this, which bring together leaders in education, business and government, are a critical piece of the puzzle as we all work together to bridge the gender gap in STEM.
At Teza Technologies, Misha Malyshev and employees have been working closely with organizations that are working to inspire girls and boys alike to develop an interest in STEM from an early age. Through support of organizations such as buildOn, Adler Planetarium and After-School All-Stars, and our involvement with key programs such as Girls do Hack, the Noble Stem Expo, Hour of Code and Junior Research Scientists, we’re hoping to inspire the next generation of engineers and coders.