This is my first blog post...ever. Bear with me. Enjoy. It’s November 3rd, the Eve of my favorite day of the year, Election Day. 20 year old wonks much like myself celebrate such a day because it gives us the supreme opportunity to decide which money and power hungry WASP will represent us in Congress. But that is much beside the point. Today, I have also come across such headlines as: ‘The Shortage of Women in STEM Explained’, ‘Empowering Women in STEM Field’, ‘Detroit STEM Conference May Open Doors for Women’, and’ Why Aren’t There More Women in Tech?’ among other nauseating titles I will let you google for yourself. The point I’m trying to make here is that if you want to help women in STEM you’ve got to listen to the women in STEM (like me). I’m not entirely sure my two cents is needed or wanted, but I’d like to put it out there anyway. I’m a 20-year old multiracial woman studying Information Technology at a large university and I have internship and work experience in a woman-owned startup, a non-profit, and a Fortune 500 corporation. I will let you know, and to no surprise, that working in the woman-owned startup was the most enriching of my diverse work experiences. If you would really like to help women succeed in STEM fields, you’ve got to do a few important things:
Knowing the Difference
On a MS Word pie graph, it may look as though your company is “diverse enough”. But this 1:1 men to women ratio means nothing if the women aren’t in management and do not feel included in the big decisions regarding the direction of the organization. Understand that you have to go above and beyond if you want to include every person in your organization, and that it will benefit you in the end if you do so.
Understand the Value Women Bring to the Field
From Ada Lovelace giving birth to computer programming to Lise Meitner articulating the concept of nuclear fission, women have been adding value to STEM if not revolutionizing them for over 100 years. Much like people of all genders, creeds, backgrounds, and cultures, women bring something much different to the table of men in blue suits. Today, women like Ursula Burns of Xerox and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! Are leading the way for women in STEM, and their mammoth organizations are realizing the benefits. Celebrate our differences! Yay!
Hire us because you want to, not because you have to
Forgive me, as it sounds like a commercial tagline, but it is the truth. After you have understood the value that women bring to STEM and you are ready to bring women on board, do just that. Always be genuine, and make us feel wanted and needed. There are times when I have felt out of place as the only female security intern at an organization, and that I was really only there because they needed to fill a quota. When you hire women because you want to, they will quickly find their niche in the organization and do better work. Those diversity groups your company has mean nothing if you just meet for coffee once every quarter.
Make us feel accountable, important, and responsible
This may be just a millennial thing, but I want to feel that what I am doing is meaningful. Do not get me wrong, it is normal that all professionals must do some things they do not want to do for the greater benefit of the organization, but we all need something more. Tack a great responsibility on women, make them feel that their input is make-or-break for the organization, and make them feel personably accountable. While an unhealthy amount of pressure placed on one person can be unfeasible, we must hand the reigns over to women as decision makers. When women are given this great obligation, there is more buy-in and that ultimate sense of belonging.
This piece is for business student who is missing something from his “world-changing” startup (gee, I wonder). This piece if for the middle-aged middle-manager. I will not simply beg and plead for change, but I will fight for it. This is no complaint or manifesto, but simply my two-cents. As an aspiring technology professional, I hate to see young women scared off by The Sacred Brotherhood of STEM. What is de jure in universities, startups, and corporations alike is not always what we see. If thought-leaders in STEM can really drill this attitude into their listeners, we won’t have to see another headline about women in STEM for quite some time. *Sigh of relief*