It is said: "There is no constancy in life, except change." This is abundantly true for women. Over the past 50 years, women have made enormous progress in all aspects of American life. From politics to the arts and entertainment, from business to sports, women are represented at every level. However, women are largely absent in one of the fastest growing areas of the American economy -- technology Happily, this picture is beginning to change. More girls and young women are taking courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, (STEM) in middle school, high school and college. This promises to transform their lives and has the potential to help grow the nation's economy.
Dede Bartlett, a former Fortune 25 executive, honors graduate of Vassar College, is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow where she speaks about this issue when she lectures to thousands of college students. She spends several weeks a year on college campuses, discussing the current employment climate and teaching students the skills needed to survive in this difficult economic environment.
She is an advocate for women, and notes:
Today's world is unrecognizable from even 20 years ago. Today, women are at the helm of major corporations like General Motors, Fidelity Investments, PepsiCo, DuPont, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Lockheed. These women leaders are reinventing their businesses because the world they are competing in changes constantly. And in politics, as the 2016 Presidential election approaches, all eyes will be on one woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The past few years have seen a number of changes that have improved the lives of all women -- more equal pay, more marriage parity, more flexible work arrangements and less overt job discrimination.
However, much more work needs to be done. The face of poverty in the United States is the face of teen age girls with children and older women without resources and jobs. Young women need to learn science, technology, engineering and math so they can be skilled to take on tomorrow's jobs. More than 1.4 Million computing jobs will be available by 2020. However, if the current pattern continues, U.S. college graduates will fill only 1/3 of those jobs. And although American women graduate with 57% of all BA Degrees they make up only 14% of all computers science graduates. Currently, women hold only 1/4 of STEM jobs. Women need these high growth, high paying jobs because the social safety net is weak, and shows no sign of improving. STEM-related jobs hold the promise of a financially rewarding future for many women.
Margaret Honey, Ph.D. President & CEO, New York Hall of Science, (NYSCI)
speaks about Reimagining Science Education for STEM:
It is increasingly evident that organized educational activities outside the classroom are necessary to strengthen core-learning skills, spark new interests and promote greater enthusiasm for science among today's youth. Informed science learning plays a critical role in igniting student's passions, fostering deeper learning. There are more than 347 Science Centers in this country, and are well positioned to play a leadership role, offering rich and engaging education programming that are linked to classroom curriculum. By inspiring STEM education for all, we seek to create a science infrastructure and also a broad-based understanding on the part of the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education to establish research centers to build around STEM. NYSCI Design Lab is a venue where informal science educators collaborate in developing new lesson-plans and resources for a problem-solving process; it is central to engineering and technology. With the Design Lab, NYSCI is making a significant transformation of STEM learning, offering K-12 teachers a space where they create, test and assess design-based approaches to teaching and learning about STEM. It is the core where one can consider design options, how to plan, and model test solutions to vexing problems, making higher-order thinking skills possible, tangible and visible.
Mary C. Pearl, Ph.D. Provost, Macaulay Honors College, Senior Research Scientist, Columbia University, NY remarks on the subject of STEM:
We are introducing students to critical thinking of STEM subjects. Today, the huge challenge of climate change, artificial intelligence, public health, feeding the world and sustaining water require a basic knowledge of science as a way of understanding the natural world. The program Science Senses teaches how people process facts as the students become well-informed, able to question and evaluate information as scientific and learn to be a knowledgeable practitioner of science. Skills needed to learn about Science Forward are varied and fall into three categories: 1. Number Sense includes scales of magnitude-estimates and approximations-measurements and units of measurement. 2. Data Sense includes graphical visualization-relevance-analysis-identifying-correction for bias-proxies. 3. Knowledge Sense includes nature-limits of science-designing experiments-scientific ethics -applying science -communicating science.
These thought provoking answers speak of the gigantic demands made in understanding STEM. The idea that women are active in these programs show the great leap they have made. Yes, women have been active in science for a long time, particularly in medicine and psychology, yet women active in the field of technology are often met with reluctance and apprehension, even hearing the offending remark 'women don't have the brain for science' not too long ago. We are living in a dynamic forward-moving-process as we are experiencing a second-machine-age of brilliant technologies. Our cultural and technical perception is emblematic of our past and plays a huge role in the possibilities for the future. We learn from the past and are fortunate to live in a nation of possibilities.
Let's keep that in mind and hold dear, for this is the challenge and the chance.