THE BLOG
09/24/2013 09:39 am ET | Updated Nov 24, 2013

Oh Dear! My Dear... A Call to Mentor Girls in STEM

My goodness! Did I miss the ball(s), the Raspberry Pi or a key ingredient?

As I reflect backwards and check off the boxes -- I've had an awesome career, awesome education, a loving family -- was I blind and ignorant to the growing skill and gender divide in "today's" workforce? Was I prancing around these past 40 years footloose and fancy-free when I should have been sitting in coding courses, embracing a math tutor, attending invention camps, increasing my digital design skills, learning the differences between Rails, Drupal and Wordpress and working with a career coach (okay I did that one)? Should I have thrown out my sixth grade chemistry set that filled my days with great joy and wonder?

If I made an error personally, I accept that and will work on myself, but my bigger question is, what do I/we plan for our dear daughter to give her an edge and how do we support our youth K - J (kindergarden through jobs) to be competitive in this massively changing economy?

This week I read The Huffington Post's article called, "MicBROsoft: The Argument for a Woman to Lead Microsoft," on who would be the next leader of the software giant. In the article it said Microsoft's workforce is 80 percent male and seven out of nine of its board members are male. Ouch! 80 percent? Really?! I do want to provide a caveat that I have many awesome, female friends who are rockstar leaders at Microsoft. The women they do hire, they hire well!

We know that computer science careers pay so much more than other careers and we want to mentor our girls and young women to seize the times and thrive in their professional opportunities.

Edie Fraser, CEO of STEMconnector, pointed out to me that while the wage gap is around 77 cents per dollar for all careers, it's much lower for computer science degrees at 92 cents a dollar. Okay, that's a step in the right direction for those careers.

Last night I sat at the dinner table and shared with my husband what I was learning about girls in STEM careers and felt a growing urgency buildup -- as I mentally aggregated dozens of recent meetings and a great retreat on the issues sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services into a filter -- and questioned out loud, "S--t, are we going to need an affirmative action program for women and girls?" Is this what the HR leaders are facing now in recruitment?

Oh dear! My dear... am I failing you? But Who is to blame? Culture? Gender Bias? Mars/Venus dynamics? Parents? Ourselves for not being aware of the changing face of the workforce -- moving through the days as ostrichs with our preoccupied heads in the ground or reading 50 Shades on Kindles? Is it the education system that doesn't have teachers who can teach these new STEM skills or entire school systems that don't have requirements (in most states) for computer science? A system that prefers low-risk bubbles on a test than teaching resiliency, problem solving, tech and career readiness skills.

Are we, as women, not reaching out to the next generation enough to mentor girls in their careers and career pathways? Do we need to find an army of STEM tutors if our schools are being left behind in math and science by so many other countries? Are you seeing enough women in the media (think Big Bang Theory, CSI and 24) in fulfilling STEM careers who also know when to disconnect?

I learned from our TCS retreat that computer science is the highest paid college degree, and computer programming jobs are growing twice the national average. I learned at the White House conference for Tech Inclusion, that girls comprise majority of college degrees, but only 12 percent of computer science degrees (three percent for minority women).

Oh dear! We do have a problem. My dear daughter and young women, as we wake up to this challenge: we pledge to listen, mentor, improve, negotiate on your behalf, learn from and support you.

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