By Katina Papulkas, senior education strategist, Dell Technologies.
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), 47% of all employed adults in the U.S. are women, but only 25% hold computing roles. Racial, ethnic and economic disparities also present a significant gap among STEM fields. Of the 25% of women working in tech, just 5% are Asian, while Black and Hispanic women accounted for 3% and 1%, respectively.
Diverse thinking in the workforce drives innovation by drawing from new perspectives and experiences. With fewer women pursuing degrees and careers in STEM, there is a critical need for more significant equity in the industry. Part of this inequity starts in early in life, with young girls who can’t see themselves in STEM roles. Research shows that when asked to describe a typical scientist, engineer, mathematician, or computer programmer, 30% of girls say they envision a man in these roles.
Making this change starts in schools, with accessible STEM programs, meaningful mentorship and access to technology so students can build their skills.
Nurturing STEM Skills
Creating a diverse STEM ecosystem starts in the classroom with programs that make technology accessible and fun for girls at a young age. This can and should be a unified effort with programs supported by the technology community that take place in school, removing as many barriers as possible.
Girls Who Game, an extra-curricular program for students in fourth to eighth grade that’s lead by Dell Technologies, Microsoft and Intel, is one example of how to make technology enriching, engaging and exciting. The program provides an opportunity for young girls and underserved students across North America to learn more about gaming and the use of Minecraft as a learning tool. It goes beyond tech to also build global competencies, such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
Engaging the right individuals is also important. Programs like this can provide a personalized, safe and supportive community, with women in STEM acting as coaches, mentors and role models. Students walk away with a greater self-awareness of their skills, and are empowered to continue growing in STEM.