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Sep 28 2015

Girls who stem from STEM

This blog is by Aimee Carroll, Customer Marketing Director at Nokia Networks. Twitter: @AimeehCarroll

As a woman working in the predominantly male career field of telecommunications, I often wonder why there aren’t more qualified women to vie for these jobs? And further to this, why are many American female collegians not interested in obtaining STEM degrees – an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – to qualify for this type of career?

According to the latest report published by the National Student Clearinghouse, the percentage of women obtaining STEM bachelor’s degrees has been ticking down over the past decade. The largest decline was in computer science, where women received 23% of bachelor’s degrees in 2004 and dropped to only 18% in 2014.

As a mother of two bright and curious girls, I struggle with how to position subjects like math and science as “cool” when most girls this age are discovering lipstick, boys, and social media – help! My girls used to be interested in math and science when they were younger, but in middle school, their perception changed… Peer pressure somehow convinced them that these subjects are now boring, difficult, and not as exciting as other career options. Society doesn’t help either – recall a few years back when Mattell launched a talking Barbie that said “Math class is tough.”

Light Reading's
Light Reading's "Women in Comms" panel on "Championing Change" with young women in Dallas, Texas.

At Light Reading’s “Women in Comms” breakfast in Dallas, Texas on Sept 16, I learned that approximately 80% of the jobs created in the next decade will require some sort of STEM skills, according to a published USA Weekend article. If you don’t have the required STEM skillset, you’ll be missing out on a significant job market opportunity.

Championing Change

The “Women in Comms” breakfast panel, which included executive women from Intel, AT&T, Verizon and Genband, challenged the audience to “champion change” when it comes to influencing the perception of STEM with school-aged girls. Girls who stem from STEM will help promote workplace diversity in a very positive way.

But how do we do this and instill a sense of curiosity with today’s girls, convincing them of the “coolness” factor for STEM-related subjects? Both Brooks McCorcle, President AT&T Partner Solutions, and Nancy Green, Healthcare Global Lead at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, mentioned their respective companies have strong programs promoting STEM initiatives with girls and women. Brooks suggested that this is a journey with our daughters, nieces, and other girls in our lives, and that we – both women and men – could begin by sharing our own personal stories of where our STEM interest originated.

At Nokia, we believe that utilizing the full potential of women in our workforce will allow us to become more productive and successful. Our senior leadership says that increased gender diversity will also further improve our reputation as an employer, and therefore attract and retain the best work force – of both men and women. Nokia implemented a pilot program this year promoting gender diversity, but of course at the end of the day, it’s all about matching the best candidate for the job. Therefore it’s of utmost importance that we encourage young women to think of STEM as ‘cool’ – and of course that Nokia is a great place to work.  :)

Watch our video: Women in the IT industry with Kathrin Buvac.

So the question I pose to readers is: How do you think we can champion change with young ladies?

I’m interested to hear your ideas below and also via the Twitter discussion with @NokiaNetworks using #Nokia #maketechhuman #LRwic #WomenInSTEM.

About Aimee Carroll

Aimee is an international marketing guru with a strong passion for innovation and launching new businesses. She has 18+ years experience in fixed line and wireless industries for B2B and B2C markets in the USA, UK and Germany. Her current role addresses the explosive growth in connected wireless devices.