Inspiring the next generation of women in STEM

It is often said that knowledge is power. So, here’s a piece of information to digest: Women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, but they are drastically underrepresented in many fields like STEM, in-demand jobs and leadership roles.

Spreading awareness and sharing informed statistics about the STEM gap and underrepresentation in female leadership are important pieces of solving this puzzle. Research shows that just 18 percent of STEM leadership roles are held by women. Additionally, less than a third of female students choose to study higher education courses in subjects like math and engineering, and women represent only 15 percent of engineers and architects. This means that the future workforce pipeline will remain lacking in female representation.

These stats tell us there is a serious need for more robust STEM programming to help girls learn about jobs of the future to spark their interest and curiosity. Gender diversity is vital to having a sustainable, strong STEM workforce. Without the presence of women in STEM, innovation will be limited and exclude half of the population.

And the need is becoming more urgent. According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, STEM professions are expected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, compared to just 3.4 percent for all other occupations. For context, Columbus is ranked No. 19 on the list of U.S. markets for all STEM professionals. With Intel’s entrance to the Columbus region, these job numbers are expected to grow even more.

What to do

While we have begun to make some progress, there are still systemic barriers that inhibit women from attaining leadership roles. As a business leader, there are several ways you can help inspire future women in STEM.

■ Serve as a mentor. Mentoring is one of the most effective ways to motivate girls to pursue STEM pathways. The more representation a girl sees in a field she’s interested in, the more likely she will pursue a career in that field.

■ Support programs that deliver STEM learning opportunities for young girls. Studies show that girls develop their STEM identity by third grade, and their confidence peaks by the age of nine. By championing STEM programs for young girls, you empower them to get hands-on experience and think positively about these fields.

■ Create grants or scholarships. Scholarships provide an ideal opportunity for STEM-related businesses to offer financial support to students who need help paying for college. As a bonus, they are a way to create brand awareness and encourage engagement from potential future employees.

■ Celebrate women in STEM. Promote outstanding work by outstanding women at your organization or in the community and find ways to raise them up. Show girls what they can aspire to be.

■ Use your voice to call for equal representation and inclusion. Today’s women leaders must continue to voice concerns about STEM and leadership pipelines — and do their part to support growth initiatives.

Working together, we can ensure girls receive encouragement, have safe places to learn new skills and spark their interest and curiosity in STEM so that they can fully embrace new opportunities and build a better world. ●

Tammy Wharton is President and CEO of Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland

Tammy Wharton

President and CEO
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