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Engineering Staffing: The Female STEM Gap & Why It Matters

A variety of reports  in recent years have stated women account for less than 14 percent of U.S. engineering staffing. The statistics among the other STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) are similarly lopsided. At the same time: More women pursue bachelor’s degrees than men in all fields put together, represent half of the nation’s workforce, and are increasingly relied upon to be their families’ breadwinners. So why the discrepancy in STEM careers and how is this affecting Texas companies employing STEM professionals?

Fewer women in STEM careers is a growing concern because, well, STEM is rapidly growing. Tamara Hudgins, executive director of Austin-based STEM education nonprofit Girlstart, offers some perspective.

“It’s reported that over the past 10 years growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs,” she explains. “The economic impact of the STEM industry is significant and, in a state where interest in STEM subjects might evolve naturally [particularly in the energy sector], STEM workers could significantly improve Texas’ bottom line.”

She cites research by The Perryman Group which estimated that if Texas could affect a 25 percent increase in engineering degrees, “the aggregate gains to the state economy would total almost $17B in annual output and more than 174,000 in permanent jobs.”

What does this mean for your organization? If you’re looking to hire engineers or other STEM professionals, the deeper your job candidate pool, the better. So, essentially, more women in STEM can benefit us all.

The desire for more women to enter STEM-related fields has hatched many organizations aimed at getting young girls excited about jobs in science, technology, engineering and math. Right here in Austin, Girlstart has created one of the most robust STEM after school programs in the country. In fact, Girlstart’s Project IT Girl program has produced dramatic results: Eighty-seven percent of program participants entered a four-year university with 80 percent pursuing STEM degrees.

Additionally, you may have recently heard of a little company called GoldieBlox on a mission to “disrupt the pink aisle.” The company released a viral video featuring its line of girl-centered toys aimed at “getting girls building.”  In a TEDx Talk, founder Debbie Sterling explained what fuels her passion.

“Usually when I tell people I’m an engineer they say, ‘No, really: What do you do?’ or ‘Whoa, you must be some sort of genius,’” she laughed. But all kidding aside, the lack of female interest in STEM concerns her. “Engineers are making some of the biggest advances in our society. With half the population being female, we deserve to have the female perspective. It will only get better with the female perspective.”

As with many TEDx Talks, I dare you to watch her talk and not be inspired to find engineers of the female persuasion. Only Hudgins offers a challenge: Texas companies should strive to find female job candidates that are home grown.

“A delegation of Austin technology CEOs recently traveled to California to recruit engineers and technology professionals because there are insufficient numbers of indigenous skilled workers in Texas,” she states. “STEM education is, clearly, an opportunity not only for children and families, but for all of us.”

The good news? Some of our own clients are already seeing notable changes in just the past year alone.

“We are seeing a significant increase in female applicants for our STEM positions here at Accruent,” said Heather James, senior manager of recruiting. “And the results are remarkable. We’ve quadrupled the number of women working in these roles in the last year.”

What are your thoughts on the female gap in STEM job candidates? Have you seen a change in the past year? We’d love your thoughts!

 

Image credit: kstudija / 123RF Stock Photo

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