Why Does Technology Need Young Women?

by Christopher Whittum

Why Does Technology Need Young Women?The benefits of encouraging young people to seek STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers are many. Those who seek careers in these fields will not only have jobs in the future, they will create the future. However, if individuals who have aptitudes in these areas were unable to pursue such a career, would we not consider this a waste of a valuable resource? An extremely large percentage of our populace consists of such individuals who do not pursue careers in STEM. These individuals are young women. This is not an issue limited to one region or nation, or to a socio-economic class; rather this problem exists on a worldwide level.

A 2009 study conducted by Change the Equation revealed that 69 percent of degrees awarded for STEM fields of study were given to males, while only 31 percent were given to females. This needs to change. We need to identify ways to attract young women and girls into STEM fields. Arguably, young women have a great deal to offer to these worlds. For instance, they could provide a much-needed fresh perspective to existing concepts in these fields. Better still, young women may very well have new ideas that have yet to be explored. The opportunities for the furthering of knowledge are unimaginable. But these will never come to be unless we can attract more young women and girls into STEM fields of employment.

The question is how can we as a culture and an industry change this pattern?

1. Make the career more attractive

The key to attracting young women and girls to STEM-related fields is to change the negative image. Admittedly, when many of us think of this line of work, all too often images of individuals toiling over calculations or collections of data come to mind. The first step to take would be to establish an understanding that STEM fields are where the jobs of tomorrow are. There is and will continue to be a demand for well-trained individuals in the world of technology. The media and schools need to highlight the cool-factor of coding, technology and making money, so young adult’s egos will not be damaged.

2. Creativity is key to success

Another way to cultivate interest in STEM aims to showcase the value of creativity and originality that thrives in these fields. With applications that allow users to create colorful images and patterns, girls can enjoy innovation without limits. We need to show these young people what they can create just through imagination, and how the STEM field can provide an outlet for even the most artistic minds.

3. Working on teams, not alone

A factor that should not be ignored is illustrating STEM fields are dynamic, rather than staid and isolated. A large part of creating a dynamic image of STEM professions is the idea that people in these fields rarely work alone. More often, they work as part of a team, sharing ideas and communicating regularly with colleagues who are often at locations in other parts of the world. Young women must understand that when they work as part of a team, their ideas are a valued contribution to the project as a whole.

4. Thrive on shared ideas

Towards this point, these students must be allowed to share their work and their ideas with their peers and instructors. This process will help them to develop an appreciation for working with others. This gratitude will serve as an impetus for seeking employment in STEM fields. The young women looking into STEM-related occupations will see it as an opportunity to share their ideas and knowledge as well as an opportunity to work with others from different backgrounds who are just as willing to communicate with them.

5. Encourage your daughter, niece and grandchildren

Finally, we must ensure that young women and girls are aware that there is a need for them in STEM fields of employment. They should be told that though males dominate these fields, their fresh perspectives and ideas are needed to breathe new life into the world of technology. For these young people, there must exist the belief that they are needed and that they can make a difference. Empowered with this, young women will be more willing to venture into the world of technology with the assurance that what they do will make a difference for the better.


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Christopher WhittumChristopher Whittum is the author of Energizing Education Through Open Source, an educational guide on integrating open source technology into education. He earned a master’s degree in learning and technology from Western Governors University. He has been working with computers for more than 30 years and teaching for eight years.

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  1. I think that the author only touched on one of the four real ways to get women in STEM. Here are the four main ways I have identified why women don’t go into AND WHY THEY LEAVE STEM:

    1) The nerdy image of math and science fields isn’t attractive to many women. They see TV shows and movies with women working as journalists for magazines (like in The Devil Wears Prada and How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days), and these shows make those careers look classy and attractive, not engineering careers. Come to think of it, I’ve only seen one movie or TV show with a female inventor: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.

    2) When girls are little they receive Barbies, Boys receive legos. Most dads bring their sons into the garage to fix and make stuff, not their daughters.

    3) Most professors are males. And most TAs are males. And most of the people around you in your classes are males. Is the fact that every instructor I have telling me that I don’t fit into this field?

    4) Think of women’s sports teams verses men’s sports teams. The women’s coaches encourage their female athletes to get them to perform their best. Boys’ coaches yell at the boys and tell them their pansies in order to get the boys to perform their best. Now think of a college engineering or science class. College STEM classes are built to break you down. All of your first classes in your engineering path of study are weed-out classes. Women need confidence and encouragement in a different way then men do in order to succeed. When the average on tests is 40%, women are much more likely to take this as a sign that they’re not good at science or engineering and should switch into another major. (And why shouldn’t they if all of their professors and TAs are male? It feels like you inadvertently wandered into a party you weren’t invited to.) Men are more likely to be hard headed and try to prove the professor wrong the next time.

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