Increasing Diversity in STEM
When I think of diversity, what comes to mind is diversity of thinking: how do we analyze and respond when faced with challenging situations? This kind of diversity is formed at a very early age, from the experiences we have at home and in our neighborhoods, schools, communities, etc. I think schools play a pivotal role here; they can continue to expand the curricula to include more STEM related subjects/programs. This way, children can grow up seeing their peers—male and female—develop an interest, and later, a career in STEM, and have that be normal.
Another way to increase diversity is to look for talent in individuals with nonstandard backgrounds in unfamiliar places when recruiting. While it is critical to have the right qualifications to be successful in a STEM career, I think the recruiting process could be more creative in how and where it searches for candidates. For example, the technology and film industries have a lot more in common than you would expect. They both develop products through an iterative process using advanced technology and taking into account customer feedback through the process. This crosspollination between industries could bring about some interesting paths for employees and candidates.
Moving Women Forward in STEM
Let’s go to the source of the next generation of professionals: our schools! I am a big fan of the work that organizations like Chicas en Technologia do. They foster STEM education and vocational programs for young girls with a view to closing the gender gap and bringing diversity to STEM industries. They create spaces, courses, and events where young girls can be curious, meet others who want understand the different career paths that the STEM industries offer, and decide whether they want to pursue further education.
Also, STEM education needs to be more financially accessible. Organizations like Per Scholas are making a contribution by creating tuition-free programs and providing skills-based training and access to employer networks for individuals who would otherwise have no access to STEM positions.