Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds
Issue link: http://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/662902
16 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N S u m m e r 2 0 1 6 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m Point of View > Fresh Insight A recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute reports that American teen- age girls are fascinated with the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineer- ing, and math. According to the study, about 74 percent of high school girls across the country are interested in STEM. Trish Cotter Tere is huge opportunity in STEM—in the last 10 years, STEM jobs increased three times faster than non-STEM jobs. In addition, STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. Gender inequality in STEM If girls have an interest in STEM in high school, why isn't that interest translating into STEM majors in college and eventually into STEM careers? Although 57 percent of American college and university students are women, only about 25 percent of STEM degree holders are women, due largely to a lack of female college students studying engineering, computer science, and physical sciences. Toys, scouting, and the White House Science Fair—what works? Many STEM advocates believe that the exposure needs to start with very young girls and their toys. One example is GoldieBlox5, a company that aims to "disrupt the pink aisle" and inspire the next generation of engineers. Te mission of the brand is to get girls build- ing and to level the playing feld. Te Girl Scouts have also developed a pro- gram to refocus gender-stereotyped thinking and to encourage middle and high school girls to pursue STEM education at the college level. Tey believe this is a way that girls can freely engage in exploration and experiments— unhindered by any social pressures created Many STEM advocates believe that the exposure needs to start with very young girls. From Toys to the White House Science Fair by a typically mixed-gender classroom environment. President Barack Obama is also trying to reenergize STEM. Te 2015 White House Science Fair—the ffth ever—featured dozens of students and had a specifc focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM and inspir- ing the next generation with their work. A need for mentors and role models A strong global STEM ecosystem is required to ensure that female students graduate with the technical and other professional skills needed to succeed in STEM careers. As suc- cess is judged by raw numbers, more women STEM professionals will have to prove them- selves in a male-dominated world. A strong mentorship culture created by current female STEM executives can be a good starting point. In addition, STEM role models—both male and female—can show the diferent options for career paths. Expo- sure to STEM activities outside school and ditching the "nerdy" stereotype also help. Recent data reveals that the tide may be starting to turn. For 2009–2013, there was a 20 percent increase in women obtaining science and engineering bachelor's degrees, compared to 12 percent growth for non- science and engineering felds. Tat's good news indeed. DW Trish Cotter is currently Entrepreneur-in- Residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit trishcotter.com .