Despite persistently high unemployment and recruiters working overtime to fill STEM positions, we can’t find enough qualified workers to do the job. The shortage of women candidates for these positions is even more pronounced. Only a quarter of STEM workers in the United States are women. Fewer women pursue STEM majors in college, and those who do often end up working in other fields.
By 2018, the United States will face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced degree STEM workers. That’s because jobs these fields are increasing three times faster than jobs in other parts of the economy.
What will it take to get a stack of qualified STEM worker resumés—especially from women—before this challenge gets worse?
Plant a seed. Science is key to understanding the world around us. Strong school curriculum is where it starts. But science is everywhere: studying bugs in the backyard, learning what ingredients make a cake rise, and monitoring as a plant grows from a seed. We need to show our daughters, granddaughters, and nieces the everyday relevance and application of science.
To this, layer on extracurricular activities that make math and science fun. It’s heartening to see the federal government leading this charge with its Educate to Innovate program. Education in STEM areas is foundational—so you’ve got to start young, both inside and outside the classroom.
Inspire students to germinate and grow. An employee recently asked me if I would meet with her high school-aged daughter who is an excellent math and science student. She asked me to talk about my career path, and the many ways you can use a STEM degree. I think she really wanted me to inspire her daughter, to show her that engineers can travel the world, do exciting, groundbreaking work, and even run businesses.
Our conversation touched on these topics and one more: the financial benefits of careers in STEM fields. Women in these types of jobs earn a third more than women not in STEM jobs, and the wage gap is smaller compared to men.