October 1, 2012

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Article

Utah Needs More Women in STEM Fields

Sarah Ryther Francom

October 1, 2012

Last month, I attended the Women Tech Council’s fifth annual awards ceremony. It was inspiring to be surrounded by such an amazing group of accomplished professionals.

The event honored six women in technology: Jeanette Haren, CEO of Truenorthlogic; Joy de Lisser, VP and general manager of ATK; Alison Wistner, director for Mercato Partners; Heather Deason Zynczak, chief marketing officer for DOMO; Susan Thackeray, director career & technical education for Utah Valley University; and Sheh Bertram, CTO for Zions Bancorporation. It was an honor to take part in the celebration of these women whose astounding innovations and work have truly made a difference in Utah’s robust technology community. We applaud their remarkable achievements.

While it’s encouraging to see so many accomplished women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, disconcerting gender gaps persist. The U.S. Department of Commerce recently reported that women make up only 25 percent of the nation’s STEM workforce. The rate is even lower among Utah women. According to a report issued by the Utah Women and Education Project, only 19 percent of Utah women study STEM while in college. And many of those women find careers outside of STEM fields upon graduation, according to the report. The women who do work in STEM fields earn less than their male counterparts, though they can expect to make 33 percent more than women in other industries.

There are many possible reasons why the discrepancy between women and men in STEM jobs persists. Perhaps it’s due to gender stereotyping, a lack of women role models or the notion that STEM fields offer less work/life balance. Regardless, the gender gap is real and it’s hindering Utah’s technology industry and the state’s overall economic vibrancy.

While there is no quick fix to this troubling achievement gap, the solution begins with Utah’s youth. Too many children adopt the mindset that math is hard long before they finish elementary school. We need to change this outlook—the fact is that STEM fields are where the jobs are.

What can you do to help? Volunteer in schools or clubs. Participate in career fairs and community organizations like the Women Tech Council or Prosperity 2020. While we have many outstanding women professionals in STEM fields, we need more (we need more men for that matter, too). Utah’s business leaders—especially businesswomen—have a responsibility to help reduce the troubling achievement gaps between men and women by serving as positive role models, showing young women that they can accomplish anything that they want to.

Having an educated and skilled citizenry is valuable to all of us, but having a workforce of both men and women educated in STEM fields is particularly valuable, if not vital, to the state’s and the nation’s economic future.       

From the Editor
Sarah Ryther Francom

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