A young woman alone in her car gets into an accident. Powered by a high-performance network, her cell phone responds to the impact, contacts emergency services, then transmits her medical records, thus ensuring her rare blood type is waiting for her at the closest hospital. This scenario is from a dramatic video we showed at Juniper Networks’ partner conference in mid-January. It demonstrates the potential of networking to save a life.
Two weeks later, three young women from North Carolina—Ada, Katrina, and Greeshma—took part in the White House Science Fair. They demonstrated a smartphone app that works with a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor to notify contacts in the event of a medical emergency.
I hope these remarkable young women keep innovating and go onto STEM-related careers where their ingenuity is rewarded. Sadly, many do not. As a board advisor for Catalyst, I have been involved in several initiatives to increase the number of women in STEM careers. Studies show that girls lose interest in math and science during middle school. However, a 2012 report from the Girl Scout Research Institute offers encouraging data about the high-level of interest girls have in STEM-related activities into high school.
Their findings include:
• Three quarters of high school girls are interested in the subjects of STEM.
• Girls are interested in the process of learning, asking questions, and problem solving.
• Through their careers:
– 88% of girls want to help people
– 90% want to make a difference in the world
– 87% want to make a lot of money
– 81% want to collaborate and work with others
From my career in technology, I’ve seen that all of the above can be achieved through STEM. With greater exposure, girls can increase their understanding of what a STEM career can offer. As one participant in the study said, “Everyone knows about teachers as a career, but not everyone our age really thinks about engineering.”
As professionals, we can help re-frame the choices, helping girls see that their career aspirations—designing technologies, working collaboratively, solving problems, and helping others—are at the heart of STEM professions. Organizations like Catalyst have ideas on how to do this.
Our involvement is critical to nurturing the next generation of young women who will use science, technology, engineering and math to solve important issues facing our communities and perhaps even save lives.