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Business and Technology Insights

Women’s Equality through Tech and STEM

 
June 22, 2017

On May 15, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) invited me as a guest to SAPs Call to Lead Summit in Orlando, Florida. As someone who has been leading the charge for diversity for more than four decades, I was elated to see 1,200 business leaders spend their afternoon learning from other executives what more they can do to support diversity and inclusion within their organizations.Girls in STEM and Tech

Seeing so many leaders ready take on the challenge just strengthens my belief that there is a great need to embrace diversity and gender equality. If we break diversity down to a granular level, we should strive to have more women working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Consider these facts:

  • Women in computer science and tech comprise approximately 24% in the tech and computer science space. The numbers have been declining or static for the past decade, while men are jumping ahead.
  • NCWIT shares that girls comprise 56% of the Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers, yet girls are only 19% of the AP Computer Science test-takers.

Why should it matter that more women enter into these fields? For one, it helps to create more economic opportunity and equality in society. STEM jobs pay women about 96 cents on a dollar as compared to men, versus only 77 cents on a dollar for jobs across industries. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at twice the pace of other sectors, at a rapid 17%, compared to 9.8% overall.

Additionally, professionals in STEM fields are solving the complex problems of todays world and its future. They are working to find solutions for global warming, cancer, third world hunger, disappearing habitats, and an interdependent world economy. This will help create a more equal societyoffsetting many of the challenges faced by impoverished communities.

We cannot forget that diversity plays at the heart of this economic and tech strategy. All executive management studies confirm that diversity produces better financial results, while cultures of inclusion build retention. Lets start changing the declining trend of women in STEMand lets do it quickly. We start with girls and look for progress for women through every stage, all the way to the C-suite and corporate boards. Private sector can lead by providing commitment to mentoring and acting as role models.

Maya Angelou, the renowned American poet and civil rights activist, said, In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. We must care about the girls who want to invent, explore and discover the next generation of amazing STEM breakthroughs, but who just need a little encouragement to do so.

The special movie, Hidden Figures, highlights the roles of three black female mathematicians working at NASA as human computers in the early 1960s. They helped build the space race. We need role models today and there are too few. Its also time to build and strengthen the New Girls Network which should include men as champions and advocates and ask CEOs and others to commit to the advancement of women and girls.

The Call to Lead Summit reflected what I have experienced partnering with companies such as TCS and PepsiCo, in that the private sector is embracing this endeavor. Over the past three years, TCS has fulfilled and exceeded its Million Women Mentors (MWM) pledge, nurturing more than 55,000 mentoring relationships. Surya Kant, President, TCS North America, UK and Europe, serves as the executive sponsor for this initiative and challenges us to train and support five million new tech jobs.

In a recent report by TCS and STEMconnector called, ‘Empowering an Industry Responsive Computer Science Education System,’ Kant and Balaji Ganapathy write: Students who gain proficiency in computational thinking can transition from merely being consumers of technology to being creators and innovators who can lead our new moonshots. They will build resilience to disruptions caused by the adoption of automation, artificial intelligence and other technologies in the quest of enhancing productivity and maintaining Americas competitiveness as a nation.

Just consider what we are achieving with Million Women Mentors so far, reaching 1.8M commitments and the private sector and organizations coming together to mentor, sponsor and provide internships. Please join us. I had the honor of writing a blog with PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, back in 2015, and we said about Million Women Mentors: Weve already seen some amazing progress, but imagine what could happen if every STEM professional made a commitment to mentoring one-on-one for just two hours a month. We could truly change the game.

Now is the time to take action! Jobs are open in every area of tech, and we must mentor and sponsor and offer great jobs and share our successes. Push to advance women and girls. We must work to correct the fact that Black and Hispanic and Native American women fare far worse as our sisters. Celebrate our Asian-American sisters who are achieving and build one big tent. We are one great mosaic and the colors make us beautiful.

The Fearless Girl is a symbol on Wall Street now staring down the bronze Charging Bull. The Fearless Girl represents the desire to build equality for finance (and STEM and tech) and has gained millions of media impressions and new commitments.

Join together as fearless leaders and mentors to achieve STEM success. Write your own stories and blogs. Speak out and act, and most importantly, execute and report results. As we released 100 CEO Leaders In STEM, 100 CIO Leaders, 100 Diverse Leaders, look for the 2nd edition and release of 100 Women Leaders in STEM by October 2017.

All of us can be catalysts for gender action. With our support, girls and women can and will build our economic future, financial achievement and success.

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Edie is CEO of STEMconnector® and its Million Women Mentor(MWM) Initiative and is building the one stop communications and best practices Initiative for STEM. She serves as a Chair of Diversified Search where she previously directed the Washington and government business. She brings to her role over four decades of experience in supporting diversity at the most senior levels of corporations, organizations and government in the U.S. and globally. Edie has won 45 major leadership awards for Diversity, Women, STEM, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Edie is in the Enterprising Women's Hall of Fame and a founding member of C200 and received the Mosaic Award from Diversity Woman. Edie is The first woman Chair of the World Affairs Council of DC and responsible for development.