STEM and science-based career fields are vital for breakthroughs and advances in medicine, technology, agriculture, transportation, or just about any other facet of our lives. The sciences are the realm that produces all the new technologies and products that impact our daily lives, from vital, life-saving drugs and therapies, to the tablets and mobile devices we use for entertainment, to even our kitchen gadgets and Alexa’s. About anything that we interact with on a daily basis is typically rooted in technologies and breakthroughs from science and stem fields.
However, these industries are faced with a vast and growing challenge – they are not welcoming women at a rate that is representative of the general population. Looking at the latest data, one can see how woefully underrepresented women are in stem careers. For instance, women filled 47% of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24% of STEM jobs. Likewise, women constitute slightly more than half of college-educated workers but makeup only 25% of college-educated STEM workers. Also, while nearly as many women hold undergraduate degrees as men overall, they make up only about 30% of all STEM degree holders. Women make up a disproportionately low share of degree holders in all STEM fields, particularly engineering.
This is a huge problem for several reasons. First, we are failing to capture and unleash innovation, new thinking, and creativity from totality our human potential. We are limiting the scientific breakthroughs that, quite literally can save lives, to just a limited percentage of the population. The U.S. will fail to remain a leader in a highly competitive, interconnected 21st-century global economy. The countries that do understand the importance of capturing the full potential of human innovation, and subsequently ensure a supportive infrastructure for women, will leapfrog those who do not.
Science is based on thinking and creativity, and scientific breakthroughs are the result of different types of thinking, particularly from people from all walks of life. By limiting creative potential to just men or not the entirely welcoming women, or any demographic subset for that matter, we are hamstringing advances in science.
No country in the world is perfect in this realm, but the ones that optimize this particular point, and create the appropriate infrastructures and ecosystem where the pipeline is being filled with the best and brightest from both genders, will result in a higher volume of new ideas, more creativity, and increased critical thinking. This lies at the heart of competition in our economy today.
Finally, this will come down to a human capital pipeline issue if not adequately addressed. Stem and science-based careers are a vital part of the U.S. economy, and to stay competitive, we all need to ensure that the pipeline for tomorrow’s jobs is welcoming the best and brightest students from all walks of life. Grade schools and high schools need to encourage young girls to support their interest in science, universities need to ensure that adequate infrastructures exist to help women, industries need to address the gender gaps practically, and other supporting entities need to invest in the appropriate infrastructure to support women in STEM.
Like all pipeline diversity issues, human talent has topline revenue and bottom line profit ramifications as well. By recruiting and hiring the best and brightest, organizations can remain successful. To further explore how the Kaleidoscope Group helps organizations build inclusive teams to maximize outputs of the organization, please visit our website at kgdiversity.com or call 312-274-9000.
Joseph Gaspero is a Consultant with the Kaleidoscope Group. He is a diversity and inclusion expert with a specific focus on the healthcare industry. Joseph has extensive knowledge and expertise in areas such as diverse patient groups, diversity in healthcare organizations, employee and business resource groups, diversity in clinical trials, and shifting U.S. demographics. He also has extensive knowledge and expertise on the intersection of diversity and inclusion with financial performance and other key organizational metrics. Joseph is also the CEO and Co-Founder of the Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI), an independent, non-profit research and educational institute dedicated to making healthcare more equitable for all patients. CHI’s mission is to bring together experts and ideas from all over the world to improve healthcare for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, race, ethnicity, or other social determinants. Joseph’s leadership stems from a wide array of experiences, including founding and operating several non-profit and for-profit organizations, serving in the U.S. Air Force in support of 2 foreign wars. His skills include strategy, management, entrepreneurship, healthcare, clinical trials, diversity & inclusion, life sciences, research, marketing, and finance. Joseph has lived in six countries, traveled to over 30 more, and speaks three languages, which help him view diversity and inclusion through a global lens.
Women in STEM: 2017 Update | U.S. Department of Commerce. https://www.commerce.gov/news/fact-sheets/2017/11/women-stem-2017-update