For too long, and for no good reason, society has discouraged girls from pursuing careers in technology. The result has been two-fold—girls have not shown interest in STEM, thereby unnecessarily eliminating job possibilities and limiting the talent pool in the technology industry.
This crunch is becoming more consequential every day. According to 2019-2029 employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in STEM fields will grow 8%, compared to 3.7% for all occupations. The result will be millions of jobs that need to be filled.
To meet this demand, we must encourage more women to consider pursuing careers in STEM.
EXPLORING THE WONDERS OF STEM
I believe STEM education is essential for responsible citizenship in a world where technology dominates.
It promotes science literacy, shapes critical thinkers, and empowers young innovators to create the solutions to address unforeseen issues that will shape our world in the future. As business leaders, we can help cultivate our future innovators by working to ensure STEM careers are appealing to women. To help open these doors, businesses can offer work experience placements or internship programs. Internship programs are invaluable both for organizations and students, especially students who are interested in STEM but perhaps unsure about exactly what a career in the field entails.
To feel supported in pursuing STEM interests, girls also need to see strong women in STEM fields. Role models are important because they help girls believe people like them belong and can succeed in STEM disciplines. One of the most important things role models can do is be relatable and show why their work is interesting and meaningful.
NICE is taking action to narrow the gender gap in technology through its Code:Coda program. Code:Coda is a unique program designed to showcase the possibilities of coding and technology to girls aged 13-14 years old. The program teaches girls how to design, build, and code, highlighting the opportunities available to women in STEM and helping to ensure equal access for all.
Now in its third year, over 300 girls—most of whom have had no previous exposure to computer or technology studies—have been exposed to coding activities through the program. The girls participate in weekly sessions, hackathons, and other events during the academic year. Nearly 60% of the program’s first graduates in 2021 selected computer science as their major following their participation in Code:Coda. Programs like Code:Coda give students firsthand experience in and exposure to the technology industry.
DRIVING A MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE
The gender gap in technology is real. Women make up half of the overall workforce, but just 34% of STEM positions, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.
To address this gap, we must start to shift away from outdated perceptions and unconscious bias. Employers can help create this movement by showcasing opportunities and guaranteeing all women are able to take advantage of the programs available to them.
Together, teachers, parents, and business leaders can engage young girls and get them excited about STEM. By demonstrating that there are active people working to help girls be more involved, we can help fight the gender inequality and stereotypes that girls may experience in these fields.
Here are some tips to encourage women and girls who are pursuing a career in STEM—and any other male-dominated industry:
• Have confidence in yourself: It’s important to show a willingness to take on big projects and demonstrate fearless perseverance in the face of challenges. Don’t worry about what other people think. Trust in yourself.
• Take control of your career: Build relationships with people and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are always new opportunities to learn and, in the right situation, you will be surrounded by gracious people willing to help. When you fail, don’t lose your confidence—learn from your mistakes and move forward.
• Feed your natural curiosity: Dig into things on your own and try to figure them out. I recommend that people try to teach themselves as much as possible, and then ask questions of those around them as well.
We must encourage girls to explore the wonders of STEM by pursuing activities, classes, internships, and mentors to grow their expertise and ignite their enthusiasm. After all, from this generation of leaders will come the technological creativity companies need to compete effectively in the global marketplace.
Einat Weiss is the Chief Marketing Officer at NICE.