Women are sorely lacking in the IT industry, and universities are taking notice and taking action with an influx of trending partnership-based programs designed to help get women in STEM–and help them stay there.
When it comes to STEM, many women report experiencing negative stereotypes in class, and many say they lack female role models. Two-thirds of women in a recent CDW-G survey said they struggled with confidence.
The survey included 300 women who are current STEM college students, recent graduates, and those who chose to leave technology, science and math programs.
Forty-eight percent of survey respondents said being a woman in STEM made their higher education experience harder, and 46 percent said they considered switching fields in college.
Of survey respondents who left STEM fields, 69 percent left their programs before junior year, 30 percent said they felt like they didn’t belong in their major, and 29 percent said the material was too challenging.
These alarming numbers are prompting many institutions to do more to connect female students with female role models and other opportunities. Some are forming industry partnerships to help students visualize a career in the real world–a trend that seems to be catching on.
(Next page: A pilot program to connect female students to mentors)
Trend: Partnering for Mentors and Internships
CDW-G’s UniversITy Women pilot program partners with Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin connects female executives from leading technology companies with college women to cover current trends and opportunities in the technology industry, and to provide the students with valuable exposure and resources.
“Strong role models and internships play a huge part in helping to spark young women’s interest in STEM, boosting their confidence and keeping them engaged,” said Maureen Biggers, director of Indiana University’s Center of Excellence for Women in Technology (CEWiT). “To this end, at Indiana University, we launched CEWiT, a center designed to promote the participation, empowerment and achievement of women in technology rich fields.”
The new pilot program has hosted two workshops, one at our executive office and one at Indiana University, focusing on STEM careers and professional opportunities. A third workshop will take place at the University of Wisconsin in early 2017.
“I hope to hear more about women’s careers in tech because it is typically a male-dominated industry, and hopefully do some networking or hearing about their career paths,” said Indiana University student Julia Juska.
“The conversation around women in STEM is very important to us,” said Aletha Noonan, Vice President of Higher Education, CDW-G. “Events like these enable us to discuss how we can help build a more inclusive and engaging environment, while contributing to a stronger female STEM pipeline.”
Trend: K-12 and Postsecondary Partnership
STEM engagement begins in the early grades, and support is essential at the K-12 level if female students are to feel empowered to pursue it at the college level. More encouragement from teachers, more STEM-related classes, and more female role models can help.
Though 80 percent of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. depend on math and science skills, K-12 male students are three times more likely to be interested in STEM careers, despite K-12 female and male students being on a level playing field when it comes to math and science abilities.
Survey participants identified three ways to change the playing field and empower more women to remain in such programs:
- Bring in more female role models (58 percent)
- Connect university women with influential females in STEM (55 percent)
- Create internship opportunities for women pursuing STEM (54 percent)
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