The STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields are, by definition, meant to be innovative and progressive, and in many ways, they are. Advancing society can only come from an exchange of disruptive ideas that challenge what was once thought to be inherently true; however, beneath the buzzwords and excitement, the gender gap in STEM professions paints a different picture:
And yet, fewer than 25% of STEM jobs are held by women. The staggering drop-off cannot solely be attributed to a weak pipeline. After all, more than 60% of college graduates are women. What we are seeing is a systematic deterrence of women pursuing STEM careers — not always intentionally, but pervasive nonetheless.
The office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti launched its?Women in STEM (WiSTEM) L.A.?initiative on September 15th to combat this drop-off. The launch event showcased several successful women in STEM professions, ranging from the creator of a virtual reality circus to a woman who assisted the Mars Curiosity rover landing. The overarching theme of the event was clear: the world needs women in STEM.
Women in STEM is a topic I feel strongly about. Not just because I am one, but because I am a human being who values opportunity, diversity of thought, inclusion, and collaboration. A lack of women in STEM means a lack of perspective from 50% of the population. From a business strategy standpoint, it means a lack of perspective from the “largest single economic force” (women account for 85% of consumer purchases). And in the most extreme situations, it means fatal misunderstandings of fundamental differences between biological sexes (It wasn’t until 1989 that researchers learned that heart disease presents differently in females than it does in males. After all, why would the early — certainly male — cardiologists look outside of their own bodies?)
That is not to say that every female consumer of technology should immediately quit her job and move into a STEM field; however, including women in STEM is logical from a strategic perspective, as incorporating diverse viewpoints is proven to consistently deliver better, more creative, and inclusive ideas.
This is particularly pertinent to LA as the city experiences an?influx of tech giants.?With startups and corporations moving in, from Headspace to Google, it is critical that LA promotes and implements initiatives like WiSTEM to prevent gender imbalances as the industry grows.
The time is now for women in STEM. LA County has more tech jobs than?any other county?in the United States and initiatives like WiSTEM ensure an equitable and diverse workforce will keep Los Angeles at the forefront of innovation. After all, as Mayor Garcetti noted, it is the only way forward: “…in Los Angeles, we cannot stay stuck in the past in fields that are meant to shape our future.”