Increasing Diversity in STEM
To increase diversity in STEM fields, we need to level the playing field for all students at all levels. Diverse students need access to pre-K education and broadband, technical courses in middle and high school, college application mentoring, and scholarship funds. Without the proper foundation, and without access to college, diverse students are often at a disadvantage in preparing for and entering STEM fields.
Breaking Down Barriers to STEM
To help close the gender gap in STEM, we need to work harder to expose all students to STEM subjects and build confidence in diverse and female students in these areas. For example, schools should expose all students to computers and coding, as well as a STEM curriculum that is relevant to today’s technology. Teachers should then work to identify interested diverse and female students, and encourage them to sign up for more and more STEM courses.
When I was in high school and college, personal encouragement made all the difference to my curriculum choices. Professors and teachers who praised my work and encouraged me to take their classes were largely responsible for my technical background and my love of engineering.
Moving Women Forward in STEM
To help move women forward in STEM, we need at least two things:
- senior women mentoring and advocating for junior women
- support and understanding around women’s roles in their families
Regarding the first point, we need to intentionally place qualified women in senior roles so that they are visible and can serve as role models for more junior women. Then, these women should make themselves available to mentor and advocate for junior women. This unfortunately often places a greater burden on the more senior women, but until we achieve parity, it is likely going to be necessary.
Regarding the second point, women often play a more substantial role in caring for and managing their families, whether caring for children or parents. While many spouses are supportive and play an equal role, they often do not and the burden falls to the woman. Workplaces need to understand, account for, and respect the employee’s need to care for family members, so that valuable employees can remain in the workforce rather than leaving.