The Business Case for STEMforGIRLS
Today’s young girls will make up 52% of the available workforce in the next decade. Historically, women have been largely overlooked as a potential source of skilled workers in a wide variety of occupational areas. STEM-related programs, including trades, technical and technology-related programs, in colleges and universities continue to attract very few women.
In 2016, women made up 34% of STEM bachelor’s degree holders and 23% of science and technology workers among Canadians aged 25 to 64. The shortage of women in STEM is widely recognized as detrimental to women, since science and technology occupations, particularly in engineering and computer science, are among the highest-paying and fastest-growing occupations. Additionally, numerous analyses have found that greater diversity strengthens innovation and performance. (Wall, 2019)
As the current baby boomer workforce nears retirement age, the pool of new entrants is not expected to meet the needs of Canada’s growing economy. Skill shortages are already being experienced in trades and in emerging technology areas, making it increasingly difficult for businesses to remain competitive in a global marketplace. Attracting more women to train for work in all sectors of the economy has become a business imperative. Improving financial performance, leveraging talent, reflecting the marketplace and building reputation, and increasing innovation and group performance are the five pillars of the business case to diversify the workforce, backed up by significant research. To see more research on this, check out this graphic to see 39 Reasons Why Diversity Matters
Why is there a noticeable gender disparity?
Eighty-five percent of school aged girls describe themselves as creative and sixty-nine percent want a job that helps the world (Choney, 2018). We know the STEM professions are highly diverse, and often require creative professionals to solve issues, especially globalized issues. However, of those same girls only 34% think STEM-related professionals get to be creative at their job and again only 34% think STEM-related careers are able help the world (Choney, 2018). Knowledge is power, and when these girls are given examples of real-world STEM-professions, the outlook changes.
It is well documented that both young girls and boys are most likely to be drawn toward occupations that they associate with their own gender. This tendency unfortunately affects girls in a disproportionate way. Since females are concentrated in a much narrower range of occupations than males, girls automatically exclude a much larger number of possibilities than boys based solely on this gendered association. STEMforGIRLS programs are specifically designed to combat this tendency and to reduce its adverse impact on girls.
Traditional mixed-gender career exploration programs have tended to produce traditional results in the area of girls' career choices. This innovative all-girl program specifically focuses on attracting women to a wide spectrum of fulfilling careers in areas they would otherwise not consider. Based on the giant strides made by women in areas such as medicine and law, once considered outside of their domain, we know that the barriers can be overcome. Many of the traditional barriers will automatically disappear once a critical mass of women working in STEM-related fields is achieved.
How can STEMforGIRLS help?
If given the opportunity, girls first become interested in pursuing STEM subjects and careers, around the age of 11 (Microsoft, 2017). STEMforGIRLS is an intervention program needed to retain interest. Research indicates interest drops due to a lack of role models, unawareness of the relevance, and a perception of gender inequality in the workplace for women in STEM professions (Microsoft, 2017). With real-world examples of women succeeding in and enjoying STEM professions, they are keener to choose STEM courses in high school.
Without programs such as the STEMforGIRLS, interest does not rebound organically (Microsoft, 2018). By high school, girls are unlikely to renew their interest in STEM and are less confident performing STEM activities (Microsoft, 2018), particularly in co-ed circumstances (Leder, 2017) which is why we offer girls-only hands-on activities to ensure confidence and full participation. We also know that less than half of high school girls who have not been involved in STEM clubs and activities know how to pursue a career in STEM (Microsoft, 2018). Our career specialists will be available to provide girls this much needed guidance and support.
Girls in small towns and rural communities are at a greater disadvantage at every stage as they are less likely to participate or have access to STEM clubs and activities, feel supported by teachers and classmates in STEM classes, and ultimately lack confidence in their own ability to learn STEM material (Microsoft, 2018). The connectivity provided by the digital clubhouse will ensure girls in rural and remote geographies continue to have a sense of community between in-person regional events and the provincial conference. STEMforGIRLS programs provides support not only for individual girls participating in the programs, but it also builds a more intrinsic and permanent base of support in educational institutions, in industry, and in the community at large.