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(BPT) - There is a severe global shortage of women entering careers in Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM). According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women occupy just 28% of STEM careers, despite constituting half of the total workforce. This long-standing problem leaves businesses and institutions chronically missing opportunities and talent.
Those lost opportunities are front-of-mind for many technology CEOs, including Chris Adams, President and CEO of Park Place Technologies, a U.S.-based source for data center hardware maintenance and a full suite of managed services. "The future of the technology industry depends on engaging, supporting and retaining a diverse workforce, including more women," he said. "As a tech company, we believe businesses like ours play a central role in addressing this problem. That’s why we’re actively engaged in designing programs that offer 360-degree support for women interested in careers in STEM, including mentoring, internships and jobs."
Here are three concrete ways employers can engage, support and train young women in STEM careers.
1) High-quality externships
Technology companies play a critical role in shifting outdated perceptions about STEM careers by showcasing the opportunities available to women in STEM. Developing a rigorous, supportive externship means establishing a radically new, highly positive environment for young women from their first day in their chosen field. Of course, not all externships are created equal. The most valuable externships, for all parties, will:
2) Invest in introducing young women to STEM
Another key to growing women’s participation in STEM majors and careers is supporting and investing in community events. Perhaps the best examples of this is the IWISH program, an Ireland-based, award-winning, volunteer-led community committed to showcasing the potential of STEM careers to female secondary school students.
Since 2015, over 40,000 young women have attended the IWISH program. This year, the event drew a global audience for the first time, with attendees hailing virtually from countries across the globe including Kenya, Singapore, Canada, Peru and the U.S.A.
STEM businesses are investing in the future of their industry by supporting programs like IWISH through donations, event participation and promotion.
3) Innovative, people-oriented management
Ultimately, a company’s culture hinges on the actions and attitudes of management. To that end, management is fundamental to making STEM fields appealing for women to enter and remain within.
Identifying and addressing roadblocks to women's participation requires leadership to be willing to see the opportunity to promote STEM and develop effective programming that is mutually beneficial. By continually offering innovative programs that break down the barriers for women joining the industry, businesses can reinforce positive change.
“Innovation has always been at the heart of our company," Adams said. "It’s how we’ve evolved and grown over the last 30 years into a global organization providing companies around the world industry-leading solutions to help manage critical technology infrastructure. We've also put great emphasis on a positive company culture that listens. Now, we’re using these values to ensure Park Place Technologies, and the technology industry as a whole, steps up to make STEM truly supportive and achievable to women.”