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The demand for STEM positions has outpaced the amount of STEM graduates from U.S. schools. A recent study conducted by Burning Glass Technologies found that there were 2.5 million job postings for STEM entry-level positions requiring a bachelor's degree in 2013. In addition, the study read that there are 4 million job openings for computer workers on average every year, yet only approximately 40,000 computer-science bachelor's degree graduates annually.
Furthermore, STEM positions advertised more than twice as long as vacancies in other industries. In the state of Florida alone, there are currently 24,261 open computing jobs (which is 3.8 times the average demand rate in the state), but only 1,851 computer science graduates in 2013. Undoubtedly, we need more STEM students and STEM graduates to serve the field.
One of the most effective and vital ways to increase the amount of qualified STEM personnel in the workforce is by encouraging women to pursue careers in the field. Although women make up 47% of the workforce, they represent only 25% of the STEM workforce. It's no surprise that women are in the minority when it comes to studying STEM subjects—this diversity problem begins when women are girls.
In the study, 21% of girls report that their parents have encouraged them to become an actress, while only 10% of girls reported that their parents encouraged them to pursue a career in engineering. Due to this lack of encouragement in pursuing STEM careers, 57% of all girls have said that girls typically don't consider careers in STEM.
When girls show interest in science or math, they often hear sentiments such as “Girls aren't good at math.” Although no inherent difference exists in a male or female's ability to grasp math or science, the gender bias has been pushing girls out of the subjects.
The lack of women in STEM continues into high school. Only one in five students who take high-school advanced-placement computer science is female. In Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming, not one girl took the high-school-level advanced-placement computer science exam in 2013. In Tennessee, where female involvement in computer science is the most prevalent, only 29% of exam takers were female.
Since the 1970s, women have outnumbered men in college enrollment and graduation. However, this has not extended to STEM subjects, where women are still a minority. Unfortunately, this shows no sign of changing soon. In 2004, women received 23% of bachelor's degrees in STEM and by 2014, this percentage fell to 18%. In 2011, women earned 57.4% of bachelor's degrees across all fields. But the percentages in the STEM fields tell a different story: Women only received 18.2% of computer science degrees, 19.2% of engineering degrees, 19.1% of physics degrees, and 43.1% of mathematics and statistics degrees.
Gender Diversity Pays Dividends
Innovation in science and technology has helped grow the U.S. economy. In addition, gender diversity in innovation and technology improves the health of the nation's economy. A study conducted by the University of Castilla-la Mancha, Spain, found that gender diversity within R&D teams created an environment that produced radical innovation, and the likelihood of innovative development increased in concert with greater gender diversity of the teams. Since men and women bring different viewpoints and insights to the table, gender-diverse teams are better equipped at increasing innovation and creative problem-solving—something that is integral if the U.S. is going to remain a strong force in the global market.
Gender diversity has proven to be vital to the health of a company across all industries. In a study encompassing 2,360 global companies across a range of industries, results revealed companies that had executive boards with female members outperformed the companies with all-male executive boards. In addition, those gender-diverse management teams exhibited a higher return on equity, debt/equity ratios, price/equity ratios, and average growth.
Furthermore, a study conducted of 500 U.S. businesses showed that race and gender-diverse companies exhibited higher sales revenues, more customers, and greater profits than their less diverse counterparts. Considering this evidence, more women in STEM and leadership roles should increase the health of the industry.
We need to increase the amount of encouragement girls receive when expressing an interest in STEM. Creating an effective infrastructure in STEM will complement the male-dominated arena that currently exists to better help up-and-coming female STEM leaders.
First, we need to create an environment where women feel comfortable and allow them to flourish. Because STEM is a male-dominated industry, negative stereotypes have formed, such as “STEM is a ‘boys club,’” or “women can't keep up.” These misconceptions can leave girls feeling unwelcome and uninterested in even starting STEM education, and are counterproductive to the development of innovation in STEM. The more inclusion we can create, the more women will be encouraged to participate in STEM, and potentially increase women working in STEM.
A supportive environment can go a long way. Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd College's first female president in the Claremont, Calif.-based engineering school’s 60-year history, made it a priority to launch initiatives to increase the number of women studying in STEM fields. By sponsoring female students at an annual women-in-computing conference and retooling the introductory computer-science course, the college was able to attract more women to the program.
When Klawe first took her position in 2006, women made up only 33% of the student body, and 10% of computer-science majors were women. In 2014, 56% of Harvey Mudd's graduating engineering classes were female, and women comprised 49% of the overall graduating class of 2014. Today, Harvey Mudd College is frequently lauded as a positive example in how to bridge the gender gap in STEM.
In today’s increasingly complex world, it is vital that today's youth become equipped with the knowledge and skills for critical thinking, and that includes both boys and girls. Increasing the amount of STEM workers by increasing the amount of women in the field would be a boon to innovation, benefiting us all.
Monica Eaton-Cardone is an entrepreneur and business leader with expertise in technology, e-commerce, risk relativity and payment-processing solutions. She has co-founded a number of successful companies, which globally comprise 350-plus employees. With the advent of “friendly fraud” expanding from the U.S. to other countries, Eaton-Cardone recognized the necessity to protect the global economy from illicit chargeback threats, hence Global Risk Technologies (GRT) was established.
She currently serves as the CIO of GRT, the international organization with subsidiaries in the U.S., as well as Chargebacks911 and eConsumer Services. She continues to hold the position of COO of Chargebacks911. Eaton-Cardone has earned a reputation for creative business solutions, helping merchants and banks to achieve sustainable payment-processing practices and supporting consumers in resolving transaction issues. She is a champion of women in IT, and hopes to contribute to an expanded presence of females in technical professions and leadership roles. For more information, visit www.monicaec.com.
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