Three Ways to Attract More Women to Careers in STEM

by Cindy Rockwell

An underwhelming one-fifth of all jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are filled by women. Not only CAN we do better, we MUST do better.

In the 1980s, more than one-third of all computer-science graduates were women. Today that number has dwindled to less than one-fifth. Only 20 percent of high school students who take AP Computer Science exams for college credit are female. And less than one percent of high school girls say they intend to major in computer science. Making this all the more perplexing is the fact that the tech sector boasts one of the narrowest pay gaps between male and female professionals of any industry, with STEM careers paying women on average 30% more than jobs in other, non-technical fields.

These are discouraging statistics, to be sure. But do they represent insurmountable obstacles? Far from it.  Here are 3 ways to turn the tide and get more women on the path to rewarding careers in STEM fields.

START YOUNG

While tween girls may not be making active career decisions at age 10-13, there’s evidence to suggest that they may be ruling things out – often based on stereotypes. A girl might say to herself, “Boys are gaming. Gaming is technology. My friends and I don’t game. I guess tech isn’t my thing.”

The opportunity here is to change the narrative. While it may be true that girls aren’t generally big gamers, per se, they certainly utilize lots of technology in their daily lives – from smart phones to tablets and iPads to various social media apps and music-sharing platforms.

Introducing hands-on learning opportunities, workshops and other curricula built around collaborative, supportive peer interactions to identify points of entry for careers working with the kinds of technology with which girls are most familiar can be hugely influential.

BUST MYTHS

As important as shining a spotlight on the breadth of career opportunities available in the Technology field is the need to dispel myths that have for too long dissuaded girls from studying STEM subjects in school and later pursuing careers leveraging STEM education and training.

For example, despite popular misconceptions, a career in technology is NOT necessarily all about slamming out code. In fact, the vast majority of jobs aren’t coding jobs at all. A technical background can be applied to a vast array of career tracks from business and education to medicine, marketing and corporate communications.

MENTOR, MENTOR, MENTOR

Girls are put off by careers in IT because there are too few role models and a perception that it is “just for boys”. This is where mentorship plays a key role. By pairing young women early in their careers with accomplished female professionals, they not only benefit from one-one-one attention and career guidance, their mentors also serve as living proof that women can achieve success in fields historically dominated by men.

While the Millennial cohort of young women today – like their male counterparts – is arguably the most highly educated, tech-savvy generation ever, in many instances  hiring managers at major corporations have identified deficiencies in areas such as leadership, critical thinking, work ethic, communication skills and basic professionalism.

This why we created the CREW212 career track at Keyot.

In addition to an intensive onboarding program, CREW212 consultants receive more than 200 hours of training and mentorship in their first year alone from Keyot’s senior leaders, many of whom are women. We also offer 360-degree performance feedback and opportunities to earn professional credentials such as Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM).

And while the CREW212 career track targets both men and women alike, it’s a holistic career grooming model that our mentors readily tailor to accommodate our consultants as whole individuals. For young women, this sometimes means providing mentorship around issues pertaining to breaking down gender-based myths and other stereotypes that may otherwise constrain their professional ambitions.

Some forecasts estimate that by 2020 there may be more than a million job vacancies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States alone. Simply put, it’s going to take both men and women to fill all of these roles, which is why we need to start today by preparing the next generation of STEM professionals – including women – so we can continue to grow our economy and maintain our competitive advantage for years to come.