When the high school class of 2014 graduates from college in five years, more than 8 million jobs will be available in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). For students today, STEM is their future.
Innovations driven by STEM are shaping today’s economy. Though STEM accounts for a majority of job growth in the U.S., the number of students enrolling in relevant degree programs in college to fill these positions continues to decline, leaving a gap of skilled professionals. Women, in particular, are underrepresented in STEM. While women account for nearly half of all filled jobs nationwide, only a quarter of STEM-related positions are held by women.
Even with the known gap, many women are pioneering the industry, showing young girls they too can be successful in STEM. They are leading the charge in bettering the world by developing innovations and technologies such as global, online crowd-sourcing platforms that allow supporters to give funds from mobile devices. Others are advancing alternative energy products that deliver electricity, water and other basic resources in developing countries.
To help bridge the gap and ready the next generation of women innovators, many organizations support initiatives to introduce students, specifically young girls, to the importance of STEM. DeVry University, for instance, has its annual HerWorld program.
“HerWorld was created 16 years ago to educate high school girls about STEM and careers in STEM,” says Donna Loraine, provost/vice president of Academic Affairs at DeVry University. “Our goal is to show girls how they can make a difference in the world through these fields.”
A recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute found that more than 80 percent of high school girls surveyed expressed interest in considering a career in a STEM field, including engineering, information technology and software development. This is a positive outlook, as positions in STEM are becoming available more rapidly than opportunities in any other field.
HerWorld empowers young women to succeed alongside their male counterparts by participating in confidence-building activities and hands-on workshops. They also hear inspirational stories from real, female role models working in STEM fields.
This year, nearly 7,000 girls from high schools across the country will attend local events during National HerWorld Month in March. Emmy-Award nominated actress Mayim Bialik, renowned for her roles on television series Blossom and The Big Bang Theory, is partnering with DeVry University to further the mission of HerWorld and inspire these girls by sharing her personal STEM journey – balancing her acting career while earning her Doctorate of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA.
“When I was a teenager, my biology tutor on the set of Blossom inspired me to think about science in a way that showed me that science was made for girls, too,” says Bialik. “It gave me the confidence to pursue a degree in the sciences. I want to motivate and encourage girls to work hard to improve their math and science skills and their perceptions about those fields, regardless of their career goals.”