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International Day Of Women And Girls In Science: Inspiring More Young Women To Be Innovators

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Today the UN celebrates the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day which was established in 2015 to recognize the role women play in the fields of STEM. It is also no secret that women only comprise 25% of STEM related fields, thus this day serves as an effort to bring exposure as well as to foster and encourage more women to enter the STEM fields. Previously, I have written that having women enter the fields of STEM will bring a positive impact on our society, both in terms of prosperity and innovation. The STEM fields hold in them all of innovation and, thus, form the cornerstone that holds the key to the progress of our society. In addition to that, the STEM fields hold a tremendous potential, both in terms of financial renumeration, as well as having the ability to solve challenging problems and transform society. Start-ups have taken over our radar for the last decade and reimagined our world. Most start-ups require and are built on STEM skills. However, a Harvard Business Review reported that women comprise only 9% of high growth start-ups, while in a BCG study found that women receive less venture funding for start-ups. Thus, it is clear that increasing female participation in the STEM fields will allow women to shape society, build a more diverse talent pool and will have a cascade effect on all areas of society. However, a question arises — why are there so few women in STEM and what can we do to encourage more women to enter those fields?

From my experience, here are three ways to encourage more women to enter the STEM fields.

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Role Models

Everyone needs to have a dream, a vision of someone they want to be like when they grow up. In order for young women to dream of becoming the next innovator, CEO, or award-winning scientist, they need to be exposed to women who represent those things. Thus, we as a society need to make an effort to bring into mainstream culture more women who have achieved recognition in STEM, and allow young women to see themselves in these women and be inspired by them. Additionally, it would also help young women to have a mentor who is an older peer who is studying in a STEM field. This way there is knowledge transfer that makes STEM more accessible because young women can learn through their older peers and thus have first hand account of what STEM is about from someone they can easily relate to.

Change The Image of STEM

The image of STEM needs to be changed. Instead of it being ‘intimidating’ it needs to be changed to ‘cool’, ‘innovative’ and ‘transformative’ – which are adjectives that better describe STEM. Of course the STEM disciplines can be very abstract and thus are challenging, and as humans it is natural for us to have fear of that which is very complex. However, the complexity of STEM needs to be made more accessible by exposing the beauty of STEM and instilling an idea that challenging disciplines hold promise and that with lots of practice, those challenges can be turned into strengths that allow one to innovate and transform society. Additionally, since in this day and age we have access to visualization tools beyond the simple black board, innovative teaching methods which take advantage of these various visualization tools should be introduced  to help conceptualize abstract ideas, which no doubt would take a veil off the abstractness.

Emphasize Limitless Possibilities

It is essential for young women to see all the limitless possibilities that STEM has to offer. There should a be stronger connection made between studying STEM and the benefits it brings. In the past I have written that the top 5 earning bachelors degrees are all in STEM, thus there is an intrinsic economic benefit to studying STEM. However, more importantly STEM education prepares one for a variety of careers, and those varying career paths should be emphasized. In addition, for those interested in being CEOs, a study carried out found that 28% of Fortune 50 CEOs are Engineers, and that 7 of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies are run by Engineers. Having an education in STEM reinforces deductive reasoning, which is a key important in many positions requiring a strategic approach, such being a CEO. Thus, STEM holds tremendous possibilities – but we need to expose those so young women can dream big!