Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Investing in Science and Technology is Good for Girls – and for Business

"Over the next decade, 8.5 million jobs in science, technology, engineering and math will be available," writes Maria Wynne, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana in Crain's.

"Jobs will be plentiful, but the challenge facing America today is ensuring that we have qualified people to fill those openings. We are not ready.
What's at stake? America's competitive standing in the global economy. The economic crisis facing the U.S. will be fueled by a lack of qualified workers in the fields taking center stage and driving economic growth through innovation."

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, though a majority of today's girls have a clear interest in STEM, they don't prioritize STEM fields when thinking about their future careers.

This latest offering from the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM subjects and the general field of study. Further, a high 82 percent of girls see themselves as "smart enough to have a career in STEM." And yet, few girls consider it their number-one career option: 81 percent of girls interested in STEM are interested in pursuing STEM careers, but only 13 percent say it's their first choice. Additionally, girls express that they don't know a lot about STEM careers and the opportunities afforded by these fields, with 60 percent of STEM-interested girls acknowledging that they know more about other careers than they do about STEM careers.

Girls are also aware that gender barriers persist in today's society: 57 percent of those studied concur that if they were to pursue a STEM career, they would "have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously."

"This is not a new problem, but it's getting more alarming. As the boomer generation retires, too many high-school students are dropping out before they can even get a degree in a STEM field," writes Wynn. "And women, who make up the majority of graduate degrees, are not pursuing STEM careers. Often overlooked, girls are the key to resolving much of this problem. Research indicates that girls are interested in these subjects and yet few pursue them in higher education or as a career due to a lack of mentorship and exposure, an early introduction of gender bias and a lack of investment in girls."

Read her entire OpEd here.