While the current number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics is much lower than many in the industry might hope, increased emphasis on education will likely be the key to successfully inspire future generations to stick with the field.
Currently, 14 percent of the engineering workforce is female, according to the Baltimore Sun. Specifically, 27 percent of math and science workers and 25 percent of those in IT are women. African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians represent 18 percent of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering, despite the fact that STEM positions are expected to grow nearly twice as fast as jobs outside the field.
A major place where improvement can be sought may be a lack of interest for high schoolers, according to CNBC. From last year, overall teenage interest in STEM jobs dropped by 17 percent. Only 16 percent of girls now indicate interest in the field, down from 21 percent last year. Some believe part of the issue is a lack of true education about what opportunities they may have.
"The info that's out there is not reaching the kids in terms of the career options that are out there for them," president and CEO of student training company Junior Achievement USA, Jack Kosakowski told the news source.
Turning the tide in education
A recent report from the American Association of University Women recently found that one of the many ways women's access to STEM training can be vastly improved is through community colleges. Community colleges offer women a wider chance to succeed, as women are more likely than men to gain education at one while pursuing a STEM bachelor's degree. As a result, increasing female participation in STEM may help more students realize the opportunities the field offers, allowing for a wider adoption of related majors, degrees and jobs in turn.
Other opportunities that exist include better educating women about the variety of choices in the career path, as the report says many women may actually not fully know the options available to them. Many expressed concern about IT work being its own solitary field, though it can also cross over into other fields such as healthcare and education.
Striking back with increased knowledge
While increased schooling presence may help to fight the gap, it's more important for schools and companies to start pushing STEM and pursuing it early. Lockheed Martin, for instance, has made a commitment to push engineering and math in K-12 schools, while some schools like Baltimore County's Woodlawn Middle School have STEM ambassadors who "put a face on engineering," informing students of the wide variety of roles in the field, from working to fight cyberattacks to providing healthcare infrastructure, even supporting the fight against terrorism.
It's also been shown that the more opportunities that students have to engage in STEM, the more likely they are to continue with the field into careers and accomplishments. As camps frequently work to give girls more examples than ever in the field, culminating with simulated helicopter flights and lessons about space and missile technology, the image of STEM will slowly change as more and more women join the field.