The importance of bringing more women into STEAM


Over the decades, women have played an integral role in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). Despite a significant history of women making important contributions in these areas, there are major barriers to the entry of more women into the technology world.

Through the use of skills-based training, mentorships, and education, organizations are committing to increase the number of women in tech careers. To our mind, the journey begins by inspiring and enticing young minds to learn and lean into STEAM early in their education.

Today’s young women must be assured of an equitable future. We’ve done a good job exposing our young girls to online educational resources, interactive, play-based learning, and many coding programs geared to young people. Yet, the history of women in STEAM is largely unknown and under-appreciated all around them.

Here are some stellar examples: women coders were instrumental in the creation of the first computer in 1946, yet their contribution to the development of the computer is largely unacknowledged.

A group of Black women from the aeronautics predecessor of NASA in the 1940s used their expertise in math and engineering to support the organization in making a huge global stride. Their contributions were unrecognized for decades, and only recently have they shot to recognition thanks to a film called “Hidden Figures”.

Why is it important to focus on women in STEAM?

Organizations like Women in STEAM are helping to close the gap between men and women in the technology world. Through their programs, they are encouraging and supporting young women, and non-binary individuals to pursue new areas in STEAM (for a full look at the careers possible for the young women of tomorrow, please refer to this article we’ve written that covers options beyond common tech roles).

Bringing more women into STEAM with programs like these creates a sense of community and promotes collaboration between like-minded young people; and offers them access to numerous programs. Women possess inherent strengths in teamwork, effective communication, and empathy. Programs catered to leverage what has previously been viewed as a set of “soft skills” will be invaluable in raising women to be powerful influencers at their homes, their companies, and their industries.

So why focus on women?

Here’s our simple business case: women make up 50% of our society. When we don’t accurately represent them in our high growth spaces, our decisions, our output, and our attitudes will be innately biased to exclude half the population.

Data from BDC (2019) shows that women make up 28% of all entrepreneurs in Canada. Women owned businesses are also launching and growing 3 times faster than those owned by men. This has been a trend since 1976! And while only 2% of all venture capital in North America goes to women, it’s reassuring to see that more women-led companies, and firms with a large percentage of women in leadership positions, are attracting more investments.

In the age of automation and artificial intelligence, women face additional barriers that are overlaid on long-established biases. Technology adoption can displace millions from their jobs and many more others will need to change their work. Many of those affected globally, over 40 million, will be women who would have to transition to higher skilled occupations before 2030. Enabling our young women to explore more opportunities in STEAM will be vital to ensuring that our legacy wage gap is not passed down to one more generation.

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