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Salt Lake City — The Utah Women and Education Initiative has released a research and policy brief that highlights the need for more women to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields of study. The brief underscores the economic benefits to women through higher earning potential, as well as the benefits of increased workforce diversity to Utah employers. The projected growth in STEM jobs and the degrees required to fill them suggests the need for greater emphasis on math and science for girls in K-12, as well as the need for more women to enroll in STEM courses as part of their postsecondary education.
Researchers project that the number of STEM jobs in the U.S. will grow by 17 percent between 2008 and 2018, creating 2.4 million new jobs. The number of STEM jobs in Utah is projected to reach 101,000 by 2018.
“While women have progressed in a number of STEM fields, they still lag behind in many of the top-paying positions, such as engineers and computer scientists,” said Cheryl Hanewicz, associate professor of technology management at Utah Valley University. Hanewicz further suggests that addressing the issue starts with helping children gain proficiency in science and math early in school, as early as elementary school. The brief recommends that parents, counselors and teachers encourage all high school students to enroll in higher math and technical classes.
While women continue to attain the majority of degrees in health professions and a high percentage of degrees in agricultural sciences, they are lagging significantly behind in all other STEM fields of study. For example, between 2008 and 2012 women made up less than 12 percent of graduates in high-paying computer and engineering fields from colleges and universities in the Utah System of Higher Education. Utah employment data reflect this disparity, with males comprising 83 percent of the labor force in science, engineering, and computer fields. The Utah State legislature recently approved $10 million to support the creation of a STEM action center to promote a greater emphasis on STEM education and careers in Utah.
“It is clear that women need to be a significant part of the equation in order to fill the future needs in our state,” said Tami Goetz, state science advisor in the Utah State Governor’s Office.
More information about the Utah Women and Education Initiative can be found on its website, www.utahwomenandeducation.org.