Industry Expertise · February 03, 2022

Why Do We Need Women in STEM?

There are long-standing gender gaps in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which can make it difficult for engineering companies to fulfill their commitment to diverse hiring practices. Women are underrepresented in STEM education degrees and STEM training, which reduces the talent pool for companies to recruit from. With so few women engineers available, hiring managers may wonder, why do we need women in STEM?

The reality is that women in STEM careers bring important knowledge, skill sets and ideas to engineering businesses, and it's smart for companies to foster gender equality and diversity in their hiring practices. Here's what you need to know about how women in STEM careers can make your engineering business stronger.


Representing women in STEM careers

Although women make up 48% of all US workers, only 27% of STEM workers are women. This level of underrepresentation is a moral and ethical issue, primarily because it's clear that women are both overtly and covertly discouraged from pursuing STEM careers.

In fact, women who do pursue these careers are more likely to leave them than men. 91% of women in STEM careers (PDF) cited gender discrimination as a career obstacle, and 73% cited sexual harassment as an obstacle in their career trajectory. The fact that STEM is an unwelcome environment for women is a problem that should be solved for its own sake.

However, increasing the number of women in STEM careers is more than just the right thing to do. Educating, training and hiring more women and other underrepresented groups in STEM can also lead to better scientific and financial outcomes. This is because increasing diversity in the workforce means gaining a variety of perspectives and ideas, which can give organizations a competitive edge.

Studies show that more diverse research teams publish more papers and receive more citations than more homogeneous teams. Similarly, companies with greater diversity have significantly higher profitability than those without it.

Encouraging women in STEM careers

Although a commitment to hiring more women is an important part of creating a more diverse workplace, it's also important to make sure your company is a welcoming place. There are several policies and programs you can enact in your company to help attract and keep diverse talent. These include:

  • Implicit bias training: Making sure your staff can identify and counteract implicit bias is a good first step toward making your company feel more welcoming.
  • Balanced and diverse decision-making teams: Greater diversity in hiring and management teams correlates with a higher number of invited female participants.
  • Mentoring programs: Veteran female engineers can provide important career advice and guidance to new hires.
  • Work-life balance: Women are more likely than men to juggle caregiving responsibilities on top of their careers and benefit from family-friendly work policies. However, men also benefit from these policies and a work culture that encourages a good work-life balance.

Supporting the next generation of women in STEM

There are many STEM programs for women that can help encourage greater gender equality and overall diversity in the engineering field. These programs work to advance cultures of inclusion in STEM education and workplaces. Supporting these programs can be an investment in your company's future, primarily because it can help broaden the talent pool. Some of these programs include:

  • Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN): WEPAN provides initiatives, projects and professional development to help you create sustainable, system-level changes to ensure all engineers thrive.
  • National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP): NGCP brings together organizations in the US and Puerto Rico to advance STEM education for girls.
  • Apprenticeships: Sponsoring engineering apprenticeships for young women can help introduce them to STEM careers.

The bottom line

Why do we need women in STEM? Reaching gender equality in STEM fields isn't just the right thing to do from a social standpoint. It can also improve scientific and financial outcomes, as well as improve the culture of STEM workplaces. Ultimately, we need women in STEM because our organizations, innovations and finances are all much better with them involved.

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