At our last DISH ATM, we were given a mission to launch the first 5G nationwide Narrowband Internet of Things (IoT) network. This effort will launch DISH into a new phase of innovation. While most of DISH will be devoted to efforts that fund the future of DISH and the IoT effort, some DISH departments will be directly contributing to the wireless effort. In those ranks will be women who have careers focused in computer science, engineering, mathematics and the business units that support them.
Women’s representation in STEM fields has increased since the 1970s, with exception of the fields of engineering and IT occupations. These STEM areas account for 80% of STEM employment. “While women earn almost 60% of the nation’s bachelor’s degrees, they account for only about 13% of computer science graduates. Across all industries, meanwhile, women hold only a quarter of STEM-based jobs (Anid, 2017).” One area of noticeable decline has been in the number of women in IT jobs. That number has declined since the 1990s (Landivar, 2013).
The problem seems to start as far back as grade school. Young girls are not encouraged to pursue math and science as much as boys are. This is troubling because some studies have shown that a lack of belief in intellectual growth may actually inhibit it. Socially, there is also an unconscious bias that science and math are typically male fields, while humanities and arts are typically female fields. Such cultural stereotypes can inhibit girls from pursuing their interest in STEM fields.
So, what can we do to encourage young women to pursue education and careers in STEM fields? Schools can create more classes and environments that will alleviate fears of women who are inexperienced in tech and less likely to pursue it. This may mean more classes for students without any tech experience or more classes taught by women. K-12 educators can create more hands-on workshops for girls and invite women in STEM fields to speak about their professions at career days. Also, it is important for organizations to highlight the work of women in STEM fields and give visibility to the amazing work they are doing.
We can support legislation that is working to correct the deficit of women in STEM fields, such as the following legislation that has passed earlier this year:
H.R. 321 – Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock, became law on February 28. This law directs NASA to encourage women and girls to pursue STEM careers in aerospace and advance space science and exploration efforts through several supporting programs. As part of this effort, NASA will engage with and support K-12 female STEM students. See the full bill here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/255
H.R. 255 – Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act. This bill was sponsored by Representative Elizabeth H. Etsy and became law on February 28, as well. This law authorizes the National Science Foundation to encourage its entrepreneurial programs to recruit women, both in the laboratory and commercial world. See the full bill here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/321
If you are already mid-career and are considering a move into a STEM field, many universities offer certificate programs or degrees in STEM subjects. There has been a rise in boot camp IT classes that may take between a few days to 6 months to complete. There are also several online options for training, such as Code Academy, Lynda.com, and many more. When pursuing additional education in these fields, a belief that you are capable of learning these different disciplines is key to being successful. Seeking encouragement and mentorship from other women in your field of study can also be a tremendous help.