Don't Stem The Tide of STEM For Our Young Women in School!

real hi res jpgHow many of us out there are under the illusion that the percent of women graduating with a degree in engineering, science, technology and mathematics (STEM) workforce has gone up in the last 30 years?

Well, we are too! We’ve even written several STEM blogs on this topic hoping to increase it even further.

Were we ever wrong! We just read a recent LinkedIn™ report called, Changing the Game for Young Women in STEM” tells us that the percent has fallen from 35% to 18%, nearly in half! Worse news: Only 15 percent of software engineering roles in the technology industry are held by women.

JeffWeinerLinkedIn has over 300 million members who maintain their professional connections by networking with others of similar background. Here are some revealing comments from LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner:

“One of the most challenging issues facing the technology industry today is the gender imbalance in technical roles, particularly at the leadership level.

From the classroom to the boardroom, women remain significantly under-represented in engineering, math and the sciences and it’s moving in the wrong direction. In 1985, women made up 35 percent of all computer science graduates in 1985; today, they’re just 18 percent. Data from LinkedIn shows that women comprise just 30 percent of the entire workforce in the technology industry independent of function. Only 15 percent of software engineering roles in the technology industry are held by women.

…..Without balanced working groups that reflect the breadth of perspective among all people, we’re not able to develop our best ideas and advance innovation that can generate economic growth. Additionally, until we figure out how to attract and keep women in technology roles for the long term, half our population will continue to miss out on some of the most financially lucrative careers in expanding industries. The number of U.S.-based coding jobs alone is set to grow 30 percent by 2020, which is twice the rate of general job growth.

For me, this isn’t just a professional matter, it’s a personal one as well. Growing up, my dad would always tell me I could do anything I set my mind to. I tell the same thing to my two young daughters. I’d like them to grow up in a world where those words ring as true for them as they did for me.

What we’ve learned over the past two decades is that to help women be successful and blaze a trail as a minority in certain workplace environments such as Technology, they need to be supported, mentored and nurtured by peers and advocates -- just as their male counterparts have been historically. This kind of culture change takes concerted effort over time.

….LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to help fix the gender imbalance in the tech industry and leadership. Our professional networking platform can track trends and identify insights to determine how to invest to get more women pursuing and persevering in science and technology careers.”

b426896b-7553-48e8-aa1a-7a1f05f082e1CS&E “Lean In Circles” is a great starting place to find support, and you can learn more by clicking the photo at the right.


RE@L endorses these LinkedIn findings and recommendations. Further, we would add our own observations:

  1. It’s imperative that our K12 schools immediately address these gender and mentoring issues. Too many girls are left out of satisfying, rewarding career options because they did not choose courses and electives to help them get there.
  2. Many of us are aware that our own children and grandchildren deserve the option to make these informed career choices. Dale and Tom want their six grand-daughters to be presented with those career options too.
  3. Mentoring and career role models for our young girls need to begin as early as elementary school, so that later courses and electives will be chosen to allow for these new career choices.
  4. Support groups like “Learn In Circles” make a lot of sense for young women. Perhaps we can find a way to link more K12 schools to LinkedIn women professionals, where young girls could visit them on the job, discuss careers, and get useful information and support.

Let’s all do what we can to make certain our girls and young women are afforded information and support for the same career opportunities as our boys and young men.

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.