Increasing Diversity in STEM
I believe change needs to start at the top of organizations. Owners and C-level executives need to enforce stricter changes when recruiting and promoting diverse candidates in their workforce. Right now, it is still too lax in most companies. For example, Dell Technologies has set a new company goal that by 2030, 50% of their workforce will be women and 40% of all leadership positions will be women. This is a great example of what companies can do to enforce change. This will bring about so much more opportunity for diverse candidates in our industry.
Another idea is for companies to develop mentorship programs in-house that match women with execs who can work with them to develop and nurture a promotable career path. Support is needed at all levels and by matchmaking the two, the executive can help guide the mentee through company politics and processes, and the mentee can provide good feedback to the executive on how messaging is being received at other levels in the company. It’s a win-win.
Barriers to Closing the STEM Gender Gap
I believe the biggest barrier exists in the schools. Girls are being ridiculed for showing interest in STEM subjects in high school and then, withdrawing from these programs so as to not draw attention to themselves. Young women studying STEM in college are dropping out for lack of community in the classroom, and for being harassed by their male classmates. Some of this starts at home. We need to encourage acceptance at all levels. Primary schools have to institute programs that encourage the younger girls to participate and reward their accomplishments. Colleges and universities perhaps can offer more scholarship opportunities for young women. But that is not enough. Once women are attending classes, safety measures need to be put in place and harassment must be harshly punished or women will continue to drop out. Perhaps corporations can work more closely with universities to coach and support students through these challenges.
Moving STEM Women Forward
If tax incentives, based on proven diversity metrics, could be implemented by the government, that might help. Sometimes, big and bold acts are necessary to help push people in the right direction.
Also, people speaking up to their managers and questioning their own company’s statistics might help influence change within the company. You can’t discount the fact that many small acts can indeed bring about great change.