Women Wanted: STEM Professions Need Female Talent Most

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What jobs offer the best opportunities, highest wages and most growth potential for women in 2015 and beyond? Many of them are in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

According to USA Today’s Best STEM Jobs report, these are the top 10 STEM jobs of 2015:

  1. Software developer
  2. Computer systems analyst
  3. Information security analyst
  4. Web developer
  5. Accountant
  6. School psychologist
  7. Mechanical engineer
  8. Operations research analyst
  9. IT manager
  10. Civil engineer

STEM stats

The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that STEM jobs are growing at a rate 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs. While that’s good news, it’s also problematic since the U.S. is not producing enough professionals with the skills and interest to fill them. Women, who make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce, are sorely under-represented in STEM fields.

Women comprise only 13 percent of engineers and 25 percent of computer scientists and mathematicians, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project. Employers, educators and politicians are working hard to attract women with the skills, smarts and enthusiasm needed to meet the significant STEM challenges of the twenty-first century.

A presidential priority

The effort to recruit more women to STEM fields starts at the top. In 2009, President Barack Obama created, by executive order, The White House Council of Girls and Women. The Council has since worked in collaboration with the Office of Science and Technology on a variety of initiatives including the Race to the Top and the Educate to Innovate campaign, both aimed at supporting and engaging American students and girls in particular, in STEM. Additionally, various government agencies including NASA, the Department of Energy, the State Department and the Department of Education have their own programs designed to attract girls and women to STEM careers. Speaking in February 2013, President Obama spoke plainly: “One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent ... that is not being encouraged...”

The President isn’t the only executive committed to increasing the participation of girls and women in STEM. As former president and CEO at Catalyst, Ilene H. Lang says, “Diverse business leadership and governance are correlated with stronger business performance, employee engagement and innovation. Shareholders beware: a company with no women at the top is missing one of the biggest opportunities in the marketplace today.”

Supporting women in STEM careers

How do corporations succeed in hiring and retaining the best and brightest women for STEM jobs in their corporations? One way of doing so is by supporting and forming alliances with organizations that engage girls and women in STEM, and by offering their own women’s leadership programs for the women they employ.

Aerotek, for example, is a corporate board member of both the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and the Society for Women Engineers (SWE). AWIS conducts and analyzes research on women and STEM in the American workplace and advocates on public policy issues such as pay equity and Title IX. AWIS also provides leadership and talent development resources including on-demand webinars, workshops and toolkits for starting advocacy, mentoring and coaching programs.

SWE offers scholarships, awards, grants and outreach to girls in grades K-12 that encourage their participation in engineering and technology fields. Aerotek’s Preferred Partners Network supports women-owned businesses and through its collaboration with the Women in Leadership Linkage Institute, the company offers a one-year leadership program for women employees.

Positive development for women in STEM

Though there remains considerable work to be done, there are signs of progress on some fronts. For example, women are already well represented in the social sciences, where they make up 58 percent of the workforce and in biological and medical sciences where women fill 48 percent of jobs, reported by the National Girls Collaborative Project.

Women in STEM careers earn 33 percent more than women in comparable non-STEM jobs. While women in STEM careers still earn less than men for the same work, wage differences between men and women in STEM careers are smaller than in non-STEM careers.

An April 2015 study called Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape, by Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci, co-directors of the Cornell Institute for Women in Science revealed that in the field of higher education, women are now twice as likely as men with equivalent qualifications to be hired for tenure-track teaching positions.

A "Rosie the Riveter Moment"

Interviewed for the new documentary, “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap,” Jocelyn Goldfein, a director of engineering at Facebook calls 2015 “a Rosie the Riveter moment. The jobs are here, and we don’t have the people to fill them,” she says.

In other words, it’s the perfect time for women to reap the benefits of STEM industries sorely in need of great talent.