I began my career in the wireless telecommunications industry in 1993, when the industry was growing at a dizzying rate. The industry has been in swift evolution ever since, and as a society we must continuously adapt to the changes going on around us. The explosion of technology and its integration into our lives also creates significant new educational challenges that successful workers and companies need to meet head-on. To succeed in the workplace and in society in general, students need broader abilities that encompass the entire range of STEM skills, which are important in any career.
So the question becomes, in this rapidly evolving society, how do we get more young people (particularly girls in middle school and high school) to see the opportunities and possibilities that are created from education in the STEM disciplines? There may not be one all-encompassing answer to STEM gender equality. We need to get young people excited very early on about technology and innovation and the possibilities STEM opens to them. The best way to do this is not just through traditional classroom settings, but perhaps more in laboratory settings. Technology usage should become so second nature that even when a young person doesn’t want to major in STEM subjects, they should have a solid ground-level understanding of how to use it and integrate it into their lives on a daily basis so that they can be competitive.
It is also important as corporate leaders that we encourage, mentor and recruit young women from an early age. Many studies show that interest in STEM disciplines drop off significantly between high school and college, and that women are woefully underrepresented at the college level in terms of STEM classroom enrollment numbers. Part of the reason for this may be a significant lack of female role models for young girls, and this may cause them to lose interest early on.
As a female leader in the constantly innovating wireless industry, I believe that drastic change has to take place in order to continue the critical cycle of innovation to keep our country competitive. I believe there is a direct correlation between STEM disciplines, innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurialism. Our job as leaders is to channel the abilities of all children, regardless of age, race or gender, in these disciplines, in order ultimately succeed as a country in the global economy.