Nan has long been engaged in working to bring more women and underrepresented
minorities into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, and have
them advance once they get there. The need for increased proficiency, interest,
and success in these areas has become a matter of national urgency for the U.S.
to effectively compete in the global economy. Employment in the STEM fields
is growing at a faster pace than non-STEM fields, and the economic rewards are
greater as well. Yet women continue to be severely underrepresented in STEM
fields, particularly in engineering, and still earn only 19% of all undergraduate
engineering degrees, even though they have earned more than half of all bachelor’s
degrees in the U.S. for many years.
Women’s unequal representation in STEM fields matters, because it results in lower
national economic competitiveness, persistent economic inequality, and less racial
and ethnic diversity in the workforce. White men currently comprise nearly 68%
of all employed engineers, but as the proportion of white men in the U.S. shrinks
in the coming decades, a lack of women and other under-represented groups in
engineering will hurt economic competitiveness, without even considering the
research that shows diverse teams typically yield better solutions, and women
leaders tend to behave more ethically than male leaders, given their tendency to
be less inclined to take excessive risks. Women also make most of the purchasing
decisions in a household, and women design for women in ways that men don’t.
Early K-8 Intervention Matters
Rapid Evolution can help overcome the leaks in the STEM pipeline in numerous
ways. First, research shows that girls start to turn away from an interest in STEM
as early as 4th grade. Having exposure to women role models in STEM fields, and
being engaged in collaborative team work to help solve problems – which is what
engineers and scientists do – can make the difference in encouraging girls to stick
with STEM courses as they go through middle school and high school, thereby giving
them the opportunity to go on to pursue a STEM major in college. We can help
create those linkages through our network of women STEM professionals, just give
us a call to discuss.
Keys to Undergraduate Retention
Keeping women and underrepresented minorities enrolled in collegiate STEM
programs is the next challenge. Nan’s years of involvement in undergraduate
education as a member of the dean’s Engineering Advisory Council at the University
of Colorado, Boulder mean that she is on the leading edge of programs and policies
that drive student retention. As a member of the EAC’s Executive Committee, and
co-chair of the EAC’s Task Force on Student Retention, clients can benefit from
Nan’s extensive knowledge of educational initiatives that can make a difference in
engaging and keeping the highly-qualified STEM students that you have worked so
hard to bring into your classrooms. Whether it’s creating hands-on, team-based
projects for first-year students to expose them to the thrill of collaborative problem-
solving, designing communities of support in residence halls and on campus, or
looking at alternatives to the old-school large lecture courses of yesteryear, let
Rapid Evolution’s consulting services help you accelerate your retention via an
improved educational experience for your students.
Advancing Women in STEM Professions
And finally, Rapid Evolution helps patch the leaks in the STEM pipeline for those
who have made it out into the workforce, but become discouraged and leave.
Women become an increasingly smaller proportion of the STEM workforce at
each successive level, from entry, to mid-level, to the C suite. It isn’t rocket science
– the same problems that generally plague organizations in retaining their best
employees hold true for women in STEM fields.
According to the 2008 Catalyst research report Barriers to Women
in High Tech, which studied 21 global high tech
companies, people generally do not leave companies, they leave supervisors. While
women in high-tech companies (and technical jobs) were generally satisfied, there
were still issues around supervisory relationships and perceptions of fairness that
required work in talent management, as barriers persisted. Likewise, the Anita
Borg Institute for Women & Technology surveyed employees in seven large Silicon
Valley high-tech firms and found that the mid-level is perhaps the most critical
juncture for women on a technical career ladder, as a complex set of gender barriers
converge (Climbing the Technical Ladder: Obstacles for Mid-Level Women in Tech). Even the National Science Foundation has recognized the challenge, as described in their 2011 report, Stemming the Tide: Why Women Leave Engineering.
Overwhelmingly, STEM women attribute their success to having a manager “who got it.” Training leaders on how to foster a positive work culture that avoids inadvertent stereotyping and encourages open communication makes a huge difference. These are all issues that Rapid Evolution is uniquely qualified to address, as described in detail in our offerings on Leadership Training and Professional Development. Investing in professional development is the most profitable step high-tech companies can take to retain and advance technical talent.
Give us a call and see how we can make a difference in attracting, retaining, and
advancing females at all levels in STEM.