While women make up 46 percent of the overall workforce, women in STEM make up only 14 percent of American engineers. This statistic is up from 5.8 percent in the early 1980s, but it’s still surprisingly low compared to other industries, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
However, a few innovative companies and organizations are making a conscientious effort to stand out from the crowd and promote STEM careers among women:
1. Northrop Grumman Partners With the Society of Women Engineers
In 2017, Northrop Grumman announced iReturn, a 12-week returnship program that helps prepare people who might have taken a career break for a full-time career in one of Northrop Grumman’s many fields. This program was launched in partnership with the Society of Women Engineers and iRelaunch.
“‘We understand the value that individuals with all types of experience bring to our company,’” said Sandra Evers-Manly, vice president of global corporate responsibility at Northrop Grumman.
iReturn is only one of the many projects launched by the SWE with Northrop Grumman. The two organizations often co-sponsor events for female engineers, run competitions for high school students interested in STEM, and more.
2. Recognition for Top Women Leaders in Technology
The Women Tech Council is a national organization that celebrates the contributions of women in technology. In 2017, they presented the Women Tech Awards to seven innovative women. “Since launching the award program 10 years ago, WTC has recognized more than 190 women including 26 university students through the Women Tech Awards,” according to Cision’s PR Newswire. The organization has also implemented STEM education programs in elementary schools to increase awareness of STEM careers at an early age, as well as a host of other technology-related programs for women, according to WTC.
3. Google Joins the National Girls Collaborative Project
Google has partnered with the National Girls Collaborative Project, an organization that brings computer science programming to children all over the U.S., especially young girls. The NGCP has branches in almost every major U.S. city, aimed at fostering the next generation of female engineers.
4. Johnson & Johnson and Cisco Support Million Women Mentors
By 2020, Million Women Mentors hopes to pair 1 million people who work in engineering and science with girls and women who are interested in STEM careers — whether they are in high school or college or are starting their careers. Both Johnson & Johnson and Cisco donate money, time and volunteers to this effort annually — and this time and money has seemed to trickle down into workforces that subsequently prioritize more diversity than their peers.
Cisco has stated, “We have committed to the US2020 pledge — that 20 percent of our workforce will mentor students in STEM annually by 2020.” Johnson & Johnson has made a similar commitment: they aim to foster mentoring initiatives to increase and retain the amount of young women in the nursing workforce by 2020.
Empowering Women in STEM
Things are improving for women in STEM, albeit slowly. According to Business Insider, “18% of software engineering jobs in the U.S. went to women in 2016, versus 16% in 2008.”
A 2016 LinkedIn report found that while some U.S. industries are making strides in hiring women, others are regressing or haven’t changed at all. In addition, when women do get hired, they often face behaviors or barriers that may push them out the door later on, according to CNN Tech.
Changing these statistics requires more than just hiring women; it also involves empowering a younger generation of women to get excited about pursuing engineering careers and making workplace environments welcoming to women.