It is an unfortunate fact that there is a shortage of women in STEM. It is unfortunate for a number of reasons. Not only are women missing out on a meaningful and rewarding career, but the industry is missing out on the diverse contribution that can be gained from well-educated, strong and intelligent female leaders.
I think there are several causes behind this situation, not least the culture and information that supports decisions being made by schoolchildren about course subject choices. There is still unacceptable gender stereotyping in schools driven mainly by ignorance of what a career in STEM really means for both men and women, and ignorance that women can build a very successful career in STEM. I have had the privilege of being part of motivated teams working together with a common purpose of building something that will directly contribute to the way we live (in my case, transportation). It is up to people like me to visit schools, talk about my experiences, and paint a vivid picture of how vibrant STEM careers are—and explain that, contrary to some opinion, STEM is not boring, it is fun and rewarding.
In the past there has been a lack of high-profile female role models in STEM, which has not helped to give females confidence that STEM is a viable and sustainable career option. As the number of women moving into senior management positions increases and these women become more empowered to not accept the status quo and influence corporate culture, I predict more women will be attracted to the excitement of a career in STEM, confident that the industry will support them.
We as individuals can make sure we visit schools. In the UK we have a successful Stemnet program which organizes volunteers to visit schools and colleges and engage in STEM. In addition, however, those projects involving STEM should take responsibility to make a difference. The hope is that we are inspiring those girls with an early natural tendency towards STEM to stick with it, ignore the stereotyping, follow their heart, and join us in contributing towards building a better world.