By Emily Verde
The article “7 Ways to Recruit More Women to Pursue Tech Careers” was written in June 2015 by Rachel Kast, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University, Detroit. This blog post provides a summary of her suggestions to attract more women into studying and working in STEM fields.
She begins her article with anecdotes about her own experience in the engineering field and points out that, in most work places, the stereotype of engineers being middle-aged, white men is correct. She goes on to share research that shows that the gender gap in STEM professions reaches throughout the world, not just in the United States. Test scores show that through fourth grade, girls and boys score approximately the same in skill level in STEM courses, but in college, there is a significant difference between the percentage of women who succeed in a STEM major vs. the (much higher) percentage of men who graduate in a STEM major. Kast suggests that the best way to help STEM fields increase creativity in problem solving and make fewer mistakes is to increase the diversity in the professions by “[recruiting] from the untapped potential of women who could excel in STEM positions, just like their male counterparts.”
Kast goes on to outline a 7-step process for recruiting women to STEM professions: Intervene early, educate young women about STEM jobs and STEM careers, provide mentorship from successful women in STEM , educate students and staff about implicit (and explicit) bias inSTEM, help girls develop spatial skills, develop a culture to recruit female students, develop a culture to retain female students. Much of her plan focuses on helping young women retain their confidence in their skills and ignore stereotypes about STEM jobs. Kast suggests that the primary way of doing this is by offering mentorship and support systems for women/girls who are interested in the STEM fields. I think this is brilliant, and we’ve seen this work in other fields (such as music and writing), so it makes sense that providing women with mentors in the STEM field would help them develop their skills, keep up their confidence, and make important connections for future careers in STEM.
The plan that Kast outlines in her article seems simple and obvious, but is, unfortunately,not being utilized universally. I agree with Kast that, if it were, STEM’s gender gap would narrow significantly.
Emily Verde is a Wayne State University honors student majoring in piano performance. In the Wikid GRRLS project she teaches middle school girls online skills in Detroit Public Schools this semester.