Increasing Diversity in STEM

Increasing diversity begins with introducing STEM skills which starts at home through exposure and encouragement. Literacy and the passion for learning are foundational to STEM and can start very early in life. At one of the hospitals I lead, the parents of every newborn are given a book to encourage bonding, literacy, and early skill enhancement. As children gain a passion for STEM, they also need to have role models that will help guide their growth. I volunteer with several programs, such as Girls, Inc. and BUY Cobb, that give children support and guidance for personal and future professional growth.

How the STEM World Is Changing

The good news about health care is that we are making great progress in diverse representation in the field. Although there are far more female than male nurses in the field, there is still more work to do at the governance and board level to increase diversity.

According to the American College of Healthcare Executives, women currently make up about 11 percent of health care CEOs in the United States. Through training and mentorship organizations can and should do better, but I see progress.

Moving Women Forward in STEM

We still need to take on the differences in the way women leaders in STEM are perceived. In some professional environments, similar personalities of men and women are perceived differently. Women may be considered aggressive and men are go-getters. At WellStar we have learned to embrace these differences to allow both men and women to thrive.

In health care, we are forced to make tough decisions about the health and lives of our patients every day. This requires compassion but also confidence in decision-making and actions. Pairing women with industry-savvy sponsors who become their champions for change is a key strategy in moving women forward. This effort helps shorten the “get-to-know” window. It also gives women an opportunity to develop their own brand and build key relationships at the next level.

Women in STEM 5 Years Out

According to one study, if gender equality existed today, the world would have 300,000 additional women focusing on STEM fields. These numbers would translate to an additional three million potential female scientists in the next 10 years. In 5 years, this gap will continue to close, if—and only if—women currently in STEM use what I refer to as the “BOUNTY Effect.” BOUNTY, or Bring One Up Next to You, means taking time out of your busy schedule to mentor and coach. Be visible—you didn’t get where you are by hiding behind the scenes. And be bold—this important work takes courage.