How CIOs are Opening Doorways for Women in STEM Profession

HR Tech Outlook | Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Young women possess the talent and have an interest, but, organizations have to create a nurturing environment to encourage them to pursue STEM as a career.

FREMONT, CA:  Jo-ann Olsovsky, EVP and CIO for Salesforce understands that beyond supporting innovation and rapid growth at the cloud giant, she has an important role to play—a role model for other, especially girls. She says that it is crucial to be a part of the community and inspire students to recognize their potential. Olsovsky’s speaks based on research. A recent survey shows that more than 6,000 girls and young women aged 10 to 13 lose interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) before they even enter middle school because of lack of role models. Girls and young women who know a woman in a STEM profession are more likely to engage in STEM activity themselves the survey found.

To make the STEM profession interesting, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) aims to inspire students to become science and technology by engaging them in fun and hands-on robotics programs. The global non-profit aims students aged six through 18 and pairs teams of students with mentors to assist them in solving real-world problems.  A five-year longitudinal study found that FIRST’s approach is bearing fruit. Graduates of its high-school-level program are twice as interested in majoring in computer science as compared to their peers. In the case of young women, the results are even better. Female graduates are five times more likely to major in robotics and three times more likely to major in computer science and engineering. According to the same study, 40 per cent of FIRST’s female graduates take a computer science class during the first year of college against 11 per cent of young women in the comparison group. Based on such success, CIOs are increasingly collaborating with outside organizations to bolster their IT talent pool.

Getting students interested in STEM education is respectively easier then ushering these young people from there into STEM careers. A 2018 Pew Research Center report shows that undergraduate women who major in computer science are less likely to work in computer occupation after graduation as compared to their male classmates. Few organizations are taking initiatives to change young women’s perceptions of technology professions by offering opportunities for college women to work as IT, interns. According to Sheila Jordan, CIO of Symantec who hired 60 interns and 60 percent of them were women says, “These women possess the talent and have an interest. Organizations have to spend time to create a job environment to encourage young women.”

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