The articles shining a spotlight on the dirth of women in tech, engineering, math and science are overwhelming but few offer solutions. It is exciting to read an article that offers significant proof of how to change the direction.
In the article How to Attract Female Engineers by Lina Nilsson, she starts by sharing the same pitiful stats that show women hold little more than 15% of the positions in technology and engineering. However, she digs a little deeper and has uncovered a significant fact that is changing the way women are viewing companies and specific projects that are appealing.
It isn’t a flex schedule, work from home or on-site day care that is attracting the women; rather it is the ability to work on a project that can make a societal difference. Although her examples are engineering based, the same philosophy can be applied to other industries seeking more women leaders.
In the fall of 2014, U.C. Berkeley began offering a new Ph.D. minor in development engineering for students doing thesis work on solutions for low-income communities. Half of the students enrolled in the inaugural class are women. They are designing affordable solutions for clean drinking water, inventing medical diagnostic equipment for neglected tropical diseases and enabling local manufacturing in poor and remote regions. Women seem to be drawn to engineering projects that attempt to achieve societal good.
Nilsson did further research at other universities and found the same to be true in majors, individual classes and clubs; where there was an opportunity to make a significant, positive impact on bettering our world – women were signing up in droves.
Nilsson sums it up this way:
What does all this show? It shows that the key to increasing the number of female engineers may not just be mentorship programs or child care centers, although those are important. It may be about reframing the goals of engineering research and curriculums to be more relevant to societal needs. It is not just about gender equity — it is about doing better engineering for us all.
This is great information for businesses looking specifically to recruit more women in tech and engineering roles within their organization. Women are nature mentors and seek opportunities to help guide and lead others in their learning.
However, often we are not exposed to the stories of women who are true leaders. Kathy Caprino, a contributing writer for Forbes addresses this opportunity in her article What Millennial Women Need to Make the Difference They Long To. Caprino spotlights Claudia Chan, a woman who strives to be an aggregator for those examples of women setting the example and making a difference around the world:
Like TED’s model – ‘ideas worth spreading’ – my dream is to spread the wisdom of remarkable women and serve as a one-stop hub, through annual, global events, an online community, stimulating women-run events, all for women who are starting to build businesses, buying companies, forging new careers, taking on new leadership roles. These events and programs demonstrate that women matter, and celebrate the lifestyle of women.
That’s how we’ll change the numbers. I believe that the way to empower women in the developing world is to understand what is happening to and with women the world over. As Hilary Clinton said, ‘Women’s rights are human rights.’ What’s going to change the paradigm is to better educate women in the developed world and help ignite a movement that supports women globally. If all women graduating from college today had a better idea of the state of women in the world and felt a real part of that — if we could raise the level of consciousness among women and create a greater sense of connected purpose and help women say, ‘I am a woman and make up 50% of the world,’ — then true and lasting change could occur.
Those are ideas that we can all get behind and support. I invite you to visit Claudia’s website and read some of the stories of women leaders around the world who are making a difference. Here is a link to those women in tech that Claudia has spotlighted.
It may be true that women are still under-represented in technology and engineering but with knowledge and focus, we can make a change for the future.