The U.S. and Canadian economies need more entrepreneurs and more leaders to create businesses based on exciting advances in technology. An education in science, technology, engineering or math, collectively known as STEM, is one of the most effective tools for launching new businesses. It is from this foundation that new products and services evolve, and innovative enterprises are born.
To leverage the widest possible range of ideas and creativity, we must tap into the entire population in all its diversity.
To achieve this economic imperative, we need to encourage more young people to pursue a STEM education. This is particularly true for women, who make up an ever-growing percentage of STEM programs, but are not yet at parity with their male counterparts in many fields.
There are several barriers affecting women’s interest in and pursuit of STEM careers, including conscious and unconscious biases; lack of awareness regarding STEM programs, opportunities and the great progress made in many areas; and limited access to female STEM role models and professional mentors.
This gender gap has its origins in deep-rooted practices and cultural norms, but both the U.S. and Canada have made great strides over the past 30 years in drawing more women to STEM. We have seen increased representation of women in every STEM occupation over the last 25 years and some are already at parity. Some prominent schools are also seeing as much as 40%-55% representation of women in their engineering and computer science programs.
Now is the time to accelerate these success stories. Our report makes several bold recommendations – some of which are highlighted below – on ways the public and private sectors can continue to drive meaningful progress.
Recommend that the Canadian and U.S. governments should develop a public-private partnership to create an online mobile-friendly STEM portal for teachers, students, parents and businesses that hosts information on STEM career paths, programs, learning tools and features role models and successful case studies to inspire and motivate.
Expand school curricula to include more STEM topics in courses designed to be engaging and build confidence and increase academic outreach to women, and rethink the approach to post-secondary STEM education through program design, faculty makeup, admission requirements and recruitment efforts.
Encourage companies to develop and share STEM tools and outreach programs, partner with academic institutions on supporting and enabling girls to pursue STEM careers and to measure the results of their STEM gender equality efforts.
Support parents and girls in identifying and participating in programs that are designed to attract young women to STEM.
Develop formal corporate and academic mentorship, role model, and retention programs and strengthen training to address conscious and unconscious biases.
Our action plan seeks to close the gender gap in STEM — for the benefit not only of women, but of our entire society — and to build on the great momentum we have seen in many areas. We are encouraged, as our report shows, that a growing number of businesses, educational institutions and non-profits are up for the challenge.
Date Posted: Mar, 2018