Opening the STEM Club Doors
Over the past century, the two trends with the largest global impact have been the women’s movement and the technological revolution.
According to Pew Research, almost three-quarters of U.S. women now work outside the home, compared to just one-half only 40 years ago. The workplace advances made by women have affected our economy to such a degree that I cannot imagine how our role in society could ever have been so narrowly defined.
During that same time period, we have seen the influence of technology permeate every facet of our lives. Technology, and the scientists and engineers behind its expansion, drives our global economy and spark innovation in almost every field imaginable—from health, to finance, to education, to national security.
While women have surely benefitted from the move toward equality, we have not achieved the same level of advances in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Pew Research shows that employment in STEM occupations has increased by 79 percent since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth. However, in key STEM fields like engineering, the number of women has inched up only slightly, from 12 to 14 percent. And, more shocking, the number of women in computer-based jobs—some of the highest paying and fastest growing STEM careers—has dropped from 32 percent to 25 percent.
How can we improve these numbers? We must be generous with praise and quick to point out issues. Find a mentor or be a mentor. Insist on hiring and retention strategies that help your business resemble your community. Encourage young women to be curious, seek answers to tough questions, and commit to a lifetime of learning in science and mathematics. Shape company culture to listen to, respect, and empower women.
At Sandia National Laboratories, diversity and inclusion are part of our short- and long-term strategic objectives, and we believe that hiring and maintaining a talented, motivated, and diverse workforce is essential to the success of our national security mission. I am proud to report that Forbes Media recently recognized Sandia National Laboratories as one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity in 2019.
I am honored to have been selected by Profiles in Diversity as a Woman Worth Watching—but I am even more thrilled to stand among the inspiring women profiled in this issue who will help create a better and more inclusive future for us all.