Where Are the Girls?

Where Are the Girls?


Did you know STEM-related industries on the whole will add 1.7 million jobs in the upcoming years but women are in the minority when it comes to jobs in these fields?  Did you know that computer science jobs are projected to grow 15 – 20% in the next 5 years but most of those jobs will be filled by men?  Did you know STEM-related careers are some of the fields where women have a better opportunity to earn the same salary as men? 
Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs.   Today, only 27% of all computer science jobs are held by women and, even though 60% of all bachelor’s degrees go to women, women account for less than 20% of bachelor’s degrees in computer science, 20% in physics, and only 18% in engineering. 
Here’s an interesting fact:  A woman, Ada Lovelace, wrote the first computer program in 1842 for a machine that did not yet exist.   So now we have the machines, but where are the girls?  And why aren’t more girls choosing STEM careers?
First, there’s perception.  Girls may picture scientists, mathematicians, engineers, etc.  as typical geeks who only talk “tech” talk, have few interpersonal skills, and spend their time with their collective noses plastered to computer screens or glued to their scientific calculators.  
Then there’s discouragement.  Though girls may have STEM-related aspirations in their early years, they may not receive any encouragement from parents and teachers because those who might offer positive reinforcement may be bogged down in stereotypes like “Girls aren’t good at math” or “Girls can’t compete with boys when it comes to science and technology.”    
But, there are an incredible number of diverse STEM jobs available to women and there are advantages that may come from working in the STEM fields.   In fact, tech industries are actually courting women.  Companies are aware that studies have shown women control up to 85% of buying decisions nationwide.  They realize women can offer a valuable understanding of the marketplace and a diversity of opinion that is needed for innovation and market control. 
In fact, many tech companies are leaders in progressive workplace policies.  Often these forward thinking companies support non-traditional work environments including working from home and employing videoconferencing technology plus flexible hours allowing employees to work set their own hours provided their projects are completed on time.  Large companies such as Facebook, Google, SAS,  and many smaller tech companies offer female/family friendly policies. 
And, of course, there’s the money.  According to Smithsonian Magazine, the American Association of University Women surveyed 15,000 graduates and found that one year after graduation, the salaries of men and women computer programmers were the nearly the same.  The same held true for other STEM-related industries.    Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs. 
How do we attract young women to STEM fields?  It is imperative that elementary, middle, and high schools set the stage.  
This is why Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center has instituted  summer Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) camps which currently include a basic STEM camp, a VEX Robotics Camp, and a Drone Camp.  These camps have attracted the interest and participation of a significant number of girls and led to other events - a “Girls with Goggles Day” for 6th grade girls and a “Ladies in Hard Hats” event for high school-aged young ladies with presenters being women in non-traditional jobs.  The Career Center has partnered with the Ashland County Community Foundation and the North Central Workforce Alliance to expose more local girls and young women to these career options and the enthusiasm at these STEM-related events has been high. 
Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center is looking to help more than “a few good ladies” to embrace non-traditional careers and reap the benefits that are available.  The Career Center encourages girls to enroll in classes such as Engineering & Design Technology, Bioscience College-NOW, Networking & Electronics, Sports Science, Animal & Veterinary Science, & Health Technologies, Call the school at 419-289-3313 for more information on STEM-related programs and careers. 

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