Despite the enormous gains women have made in many professional fields, there is still a noticeable gender gap when it comes to science and energy. The lack of women in these science and math-based positions is detrimental to society at large. Gender and ethnic diversity is fundamental to American competitiveness -- and without it, the U.S. may never see the full-scale clean energy revolution we so desperately need.
There are a handful of examined reasons why the gender gap continues to persist. One is the pronounced lack of encouragement from an early age to explore natural sciences, engineering, programming etc. The instilled expectation that girls won't succeed in these areas leads to predictable, and disappointing results. According to US News, in 2013, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Montana saw not a single female student take the AP Computer Science test. Similar disparities hold true for AP Physics and Calculus tests -- and girls are left unprepared or uninspired for fast-paced college science courses.
The inequalities that emerge from high school hold constant once in college, with women under-indexing in degrees in math and science fields, especially advanced degrees. One astonishing statistic holds that of 100 female bachelor students, only 12 graduate with a STEM major, but only 3 continue to work in STEM fields 10 years after graduation.
According to Mary Ann Mason, a professor and faculty co-director of the Berkeley Law Center on Health, Economic & Family Security, these workplace gaps exist because of a "heavy baby penalty" women face. A recent survey of C-Suite executives found that 49 percent of women are married with children compared to 84 percent of men -- meaning oftentimes pursuing a career comes at the expense of some pretty powerful tradeoffs.
C3E represents a commitment of women around the world who want to see the clean energy field populated by an equal number of men and women at all professional levels. The Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Awards in Boston this month will recognize some of the rising female stars of energy, and will surround those women with mentors and leaders who can encourage and inspire them to stay the course and pursue excellence in the field.
The urgency to find clean and sustainable solutions to our world's energy needs will require all the brainpower and human capital we have available from men, women, and minority groups. As CEO of Clean Energy Trust in Chicago, I am proud to serve as a C3E Ambassador. Bravo to the U.S. Department of Energy for supporting C3E and to MIT for hosting this year's awards symposium.
Watch the live webcast here: c3eawards.org/webcast