Women are – rather unfortunately, and ironically — choosing not to pursue a line of work that can lead to the fastest-growing, highest-paying jobs in the world. I’m talking about careers in STEM, an umbrella term (and acronym) for fields comprised of the following: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Fact: while women now constitute the majority of college graduates, we account for less than 20% of bachelor degrees in engineering, computer science and physics. In my work at STEM Jobs, where our goal is to inspire more students — especially women and minorities — to pursue careers in these fields, I am constantly exploring not only why we are underrepresented, but also what motivation is needed to engage in these dynamic, impactful fields.
In today’s economy, finding a job can be extremely difficult, and unemployment or underemployment is a reality for far too many college graduates. Since STEM jobs can be so lucrative, and the field is booming, instead of rehashing all the reasons why girls are deterred from STEM, let’s explore the reasons – practical and philosophical — why STEM should matter to every woman:
Women Who Have a STEM Degree are in High Demand
According to a study by the job-matching service, The Ladders, the fastest-growing jobs require educational credentials and specific skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That’s right, not only are STEM jobs growing the fastest, companies are actually more likely to hire candidates who have some educational background in STEM, even if the job is not one in science, technology, engineering and math.
Women Who Work in STEM are Paid More
The fact that STEM jobs pay the most is pretty much universally known, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs pay almost double the U.S. average. That’s right, DOUBLE, and although the male vs. female wage gap is still prevalent in many professions, it’s substantially lower and almost nonexistent in jobs that require science, technology, engineering and math degrees.
1. Washington, D.C.
2. San Jose, California
3. San Francisco, California
4. New York, New York
5. Boston, Massachusetts
6. Chicago, Illinois
7. Los Angeles, California
8. Seattle, Washington
9. Dallas, Texas
10. Houston, Texas
As you can see from the list above, STEM jobs are dominant in cities that offer great work/life amenities and even when you compare businesses that offer the best work/life balance, as seen in a recent study by Indeed.com, you can see that STEM companies with a substantial presence – Google, Nokia, Motorola, Intel, Alltel, etc.
Companies wanting to find ways to compensate their employees for the demanding nature of STEM jobs combined with the opportunities technology brings have led to the growth of better work/life options. I’ve personally heard firsthand what a difference that can make, from the time I interviewed female scientists at Pfizer who are able to take extended periods of leave after completing intense projects to women engineers at ESPN with the ability to work remotely as needed.
Having More Women Pursue STEM Jobs Will Drive Innovation
STEM education is arguably the foundation of tomorrow’s innovation and the companies that will support these new solutions. Therefore, by increasing the percentage of the population overall and the percentage of women in the fields of STEM, we’re driving innovation for tomorrow’s product and solution offerings. In addition to this, from a purely practical standpoint, we often take for granted what goes into the design process of products we use every day; if women don’t participate in this process, then these items may not be optimized to fit our unique needs.
If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”– First Lady Michelle Obama
STEM Fields Offer Women the Greatest Opportunities to Affect Change
The last reason — and the one nearest and dearest to my heart! — is that the technology being developed today, generated by workers highly skilled in STEM, will allow us to affect change on a massive scale. For example:
Ventilators save millions of infants’ lives each year, but most of the developing world can’t afford the $6,000 price tag. Jocelyn Brown at 25 years old invented a device that does the job for a tenth of the price. “A clinical trial indicated it could save 178,000 African newborns annually, and it is now being distributed to 38 African hospitals.”
And as far as global impact, one of the best parts of my work is the opportunity to work with students, aka millennials: they’ve shown how technology has a way to even further democratizing free speech, where the student who might be too nervous to speak in front of the student body has a forum to make their voice heard. Social media is a perfect tool to create dialogue, and connect solutions to real world problems.
So, to sum up: for all these reasons, and the fact that STEM jobs can be so inspiring and meaningful, more women should care about STEM and therefore pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. This path is the most direct route to pay equality; creating a more woman-friendly work environment; driving innovation; and making the world a better place. We need to make our voices heard for our own personal gain, the benefit of our economy, and the needs of others.