America needs a workforce skilled in STEM to remain globally competitive. We know that innovation thrives in the presence of diversity, which makes the underrepresentation of women in STEM professions a matter of national concern.
Fortunately, a lot of valuable research has recently been conducted to examine why this shortage of women in STEM professions exists, and what we can do to address it. A study by the Girl Scout Research Institute offers some fascinating insights. Many young women are interested in STEM and aspire to STEM-related professions, but these aren’t always their first choices, the study found. These young women have a lot of other competing interests and opportunities. The researchers concluded that young women need further exposure to STEM careers and the world of possibilities they open up.

For the most part, however, I believe a lot of the old stereotypes about science and math geeks have been shattered. Most young women realize the smart phones, iPods and all those other neat little gadgets we can’t do without—all that is due to the brilliance and creativity of someone who likely did very well in science and math.

Increasing the number of women in STEM fields must be a collective effort involving communities, families, and schools. Even those of us in corporate America have a role to play, especially when it comes to providing mentors and exposure to STEM-related professions. One of the critical things I’ve learned in my career is the importance of having mentors and strong role models to motivate and inspire me—to serve as visible reminders that everything is possible, that I need consider no job beyond my reach.

I challenge all women in both our personal and professional capacities to get involved in organizations such as the Girl Scouts, the Society of Women Engineers, and others that provide the platforms for women to be mentors and role models for this next generation of young women.

By encouraging them and each other to contribute through our own particular talents, we can play a role in maintaining our nation’s technological edge.