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Women Ditching their STEM Careers–Here’s How We Get Them to Stay!

Girl-studentsThere are so many stories on our blog promoting young girls pursuing degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (otherwise known as STEM). The best strategy for getting young girls interested in STEM is to catch their attention early, like these two companies are doing.

Today, women make up half of the workforce, attain more college degrees than men, and earn at least half of their family’s income. Technology-related careers are one of the fastest-growing and highest-paying paths, and women in STEM jobs earn 33% more than those in non-STEM jobs. But, it seems that companies still can’t quite figure out how to attract and retain more talented women in STEM. And even when companies are able to attract women, there’s a huge problem retaining them!

According to, 41% of “highly qualified scientists, engineers, and technologists on the lower rungs of corporate career ladders” are female, yet more than 54% of them drop out between their mid-to-late-thirties. It seems that once women reach a certain point in their careers, they begin letting go of their aspirations to become part of the leadership team because they don’t want to sacrifice everything else in their lives to get there.

So what can companies do to help keep their female employees pursuing their aspirations in STEM related careers? It’s actually very simple, and it all comes down to the balance between work and personal lives.

Emily Cole, the chief science officer at Liquid Light says that, “when searching for a company, many women may not consider potential employers who don’t have [family] initiatives in place.  It is difficult for people to align their careers when you have to account for such factors as location of opportunities, travel schedules, work hours, and more. Opportunities in the science world are not as widespread and mobile as other careers, adding another challenge.”

Cole was recently named an “Innovator Under 35” by MIT Technology Review. She believes the exodus of women in STEM in their thirties may have a lot to do with women sacrificing for their families, mainly because of typical gender roles and companies not having adequate family initiatives in place.

Scientists and engineers often have to solve complex problems and the more diversity they have on their team, the greater the chances of finding innovative solutions. This is a major mistake on the company’s part, yet they’re still having a hard time thinking this way.

“Women who are passionate about STEM should follow their instincts and pursue careers within the different fields,” says Cole. “Passion is what keeps you focused on your goals and in return leads to your success. The more we see women excel in STEM and leading companies, the more other women will be inspired to follow in their footsteps.” And inspiration is key to keeping girls going in STEM.

Cole would like to remind anyone interested in STEM careers, especially young women, that “gender roles and stigmas should never impact a person’s decisions.” And she’s right. It’s time for women to follow their dreams in STEM and to understand that we support them every step of the way!

photo credit: Students in Santiago via photopin (license)

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