Every day there is a new development in technology and greater demand for forward thinkers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). One of my closest friends from high school and college is an industrial engineer. I’ve always had an enormous sense of pride and respect for her because she was sometimes the only female in her class yet always managed to find time to mentor and encourage young girls to pursue careers in science and technology.
With the changing times of our society, there is an increased need for workers in STEM fields from biology to engineering to computer science. According to the 2010 American Community Survey, STEM graduates only have a 4.7% unemployment rate versus non-STEM graduates whose unemployment rate is 5.4%. There are plenty of STEM jobs available with 30% of job openings in large cities pertaining to STEM fields. However, only 11% of the population has a STEM degree. In 2010, for every computer major there were 7 relevant job openings. Also in 2010, 1 in 18 workers held STEM jobs.
How can we address the STEM shortage? We need to get more women into the field. While women make up 46.7% of the US workforce, we represent less than 25% of STEM workers. In fact, almost 60% of all grad students are women. When it comes to technology, women used to be more likely to go to school for STEM careers in computer science. In 1985, 37% of computer science bachelor’s degrees were earned by women. However, in 2010 only 18% of those degrees were earned by women. Among women ages 18-34, 66% of them rate having a career as a very high life priority. The wage gap is closing with female workers ages 16-34 earning 90% of what men earn. However, women in STEM jobs earn 33% more than women in non-STEM jobs.
Currently, there are several initiatives aiming to direct more women to STEM fields. GoldieBlox is an engineering-based toy set with an accompanying book that teaches girls how to build with simple tools. DigiGirlz Day is an event held at Microsoft locations worldwide where girls can meet Microsoft personnel and learn more about careers in business and technology. In addition, there’s a DigiGirlz High Tech Camp that includes technology tours, demonstrations, and workshops. Internationally we have Net Hope’s Women’s TechConnect, a program that mentors and trains women and girls in developing countries who are interested in STEM careers.
One thing is for sure, minority women are still the most underrepresented individuals in science, engineering, medicine and dentistry as reported by the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. We must encourage our sisters and daughters to pursue STEM careers and serve as mentors and role models for the next generation of scientists, doctors, and engineers.
Check out the Infographic below for more information on Women and STEM.