Advice, Resources and Opportunities for Women in Science, Math, Engineering and Technology
Our world becomes more technologically advanced every day. We make scientific discoveries and engineer solutions that streamline our lives, and these advancements affect everyone. But women have historically been underrepresented in the industries that drive technology; science, math, engineering, computers and more. Though that mindset has been changing, there is still an incredible opportunity for women to develop and change the face of STEM industries as we know them today. No matter the stage of life or education level, this page offers advice and introduces resources that can help women gain the confidence to set STEM education and career goals.
STEM Experts: What Women Bring to the Table
The United States will need 1.7 million more engineers and computing professionals before 2025 to keep up with technological advancements, yet women make up only 12 percent of engineers and 26 percent of computing professionals according to a 2015 executive report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). It’s important for women to be a larger part of science, engineering and tech industries because of their unique perspectives, voices and experiences. Here what these industry experts have to say about what women bring to the table in STEM fields.
Facilitation and management skills
I think women have really honed their ability to manage and track multiple projects. All that additional invisible workload means they are much more adept at managing crisis situations.
An aerospace engineer who spent most of her 15 years in aviation working for a start-up aircraft company in Bend, OR, Abrams earned a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She led the certification engineering program at Columbia Aircraft where she oversaw the certification of several aircraft models and ensured that all designs met applicable regulations. She is currently the Manager at FoundersPad, an early-stage venture fund and mentorship program.
Creativity and teamwork
I have seen, over and over, that the best solutions are developed when problems are tackled by teams and when those teams have a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives. The world needs your creative brainpower if we are serious about developing medicines for all, clean energy, low-cost communications systems, or simply feeding the planet.
Dean and Professor of Engineering since 2005, Helble received his BS in chemical engineering from Lehigh University and his PhD in chemical engineering from MIT. Before joining Thayer School, Helble was named the 2004–2005 Roger Revelle Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received a young faculty Career Award from the National Science Foundation, an outstanding young faculty award from the University of Connecticut School of Engineering and the Barnard Award from AAAS. In 2014, Helble, along with three Thayer colleagues, was a recipient of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education for the design and implementation of Dartmouth’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program.
Compassionate, inclusive thinking
Women bring a larger perspective to problem-solving. They create their solutions by thinking of others. Women are more likely to see how a suggested solution will impact another group of people.
Arreola turned her degree in biological sciences and minor in women’s studies into a career working on diversity issues in STEM. She also holds a MA in Public Administration with a concentration in Gender and Women’s Studies from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She is the program director of Latin@s Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science at UIC. Arreola’s work on behalf of women and girls has been recognized with a UIC Woman of the Year award; the community with a Chicago Foundation for Women Impact Award; and the White House with an organizational Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.
Women help ensure design, testing and engineering solutions consider more factors than only those from one limited perspective. There is a cost incurred when we don’t come up with a solution that has considered many perspectives and angles.
Every person brings a different experience; without women or minorities, a team lacks diversity of perspective, and creative solutions are lost. Science needs women in STEM. Society needs women in STEM. Without women in these fields, half of our best ideas are lost.
Graduating Magna Cum Laude from Goucher College with a BA in Chemistry and a minor in dance, DiLoreto works as an Environmental Specialist in the Environmental Services department at Portland General Electric (PGE) in Portland, OR. Her current role focuses on environmental assessment, environmental remediation and waste management.
Women in general are much more collaborative than men are. Men are more competitive, women are more collaborative, and companies are starting to realize how valuable that collaboration is. Collaboration between adjacent, related fields brings an integrated, holistic perspective.
McClintock is the Director of McClintock Facade Consulting, LLC, based in the California Bay Area. She earned her BS in Architectural Engineering from University of Colorado Boulder, and her MS in Structural Engineering and Masters of Architecture degrees from University of California, Berkeley. She has designed buildings as a façade engineer, structural engineer and mechanical engineer in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia. She also teaches courses through the American Institute of Architects.
Ability to ‘do it all’
It’s certainly not easy, but women have the “you can do it all” approach—you can have a career, and raise a family, and do research as well. Women who make it work are great role models.
Paradise is an instructor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Puget Sound (UPS). She earned a BS in Mathematics and Economics with a minor in French and Computer Science from UPS, and an MS in Mathematics from Washington State University (WSU). She has been teaching a variety of freshman courses at UPS ever since graduating from WSU.
Girls Can! Overcoming Challenges & Succeeding in STEM Classes
Because women have historically been underrepresented in STEM industries and leadership positions within STEM fields, the thought of taking the road is less traveled and pursuing a STEM education may feel uncomfortable. Sexist hiring practices are an unfortunate reality, as are ingrained biases about a woman’s presence in STEM industries. While there may be obstacles for women interested in these fields, there are many success stories: women have and continue to overcome these obstacles daily. Here are some common struggles, with advice from women succeeding in STEM.
Maurya McClintock, Director of McClintock Façade Consulting LLC, says, “You have to get over it. The culture of boys in tech classes is getting better at accepting women, and it’s going to filter up into the industry from schools. Have a bit of patience. Things aren’t perfect but they’re getting better, and you should do what you can to make it better as fast as possible.”
“I don’t think I’m good enough at math to go into STEM.”
These types of ingrained biases can steer girls away from math and science, as they are told that boys are simply better at these subjects than girls. Dr. Joseph Helble, Dean of Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, says, “I think this idea that that one needs to be a brilliant math and science student to even consider studying engineering is simply wrong.” Instead, he thinks the ideal STEM student is “anyone who is curious, open-minded and interested in creating things that might change the world.”
“What if no one will fund my research projects because I’m a woman?”
Amber DiLoreto, an Environmental Specialist for PGE, says, “Even when you are young or inexperienced, you bring valuable perspective. Be confident in your ideas, and learn to communicate them effectively and persistently. People are more inclined to listen when they trust and respect you, and when they believe you have the best interests of the team at heart.”
“Everyone tells me I won’t make it far in my field.”
Maurya McClintock acknowledges that, “In a male-dominated field, one of the challenges is that it can be really hard for women to be promoted to leadership roles.” However, she is quick to point out that even if women find run into promotional obstacles, they can still use the same skills in a career that is not in STEM. “Instead of trying to move up in one path, it might be interesting to try moving sideways. In engineering or architecture, if there’s a strong glass ceiling, women can get into construction, or take on management positions in contracting, where their unique perspective and background are valued.”
“I hear a lot of horror stories about sexual harassment.”
Even if it is a reality many women in STEM face, sexual harassment does not have to be accepted or tolerated. And it isn’t guaranteed. Amber DiLoreto says, “In four years of college and three years as a professional in a STEM field, I have not experienced sexual harassment. It happens, certainly, but it is not inevitable.”
Tricia Berry, Director of the Women in Engineering Program at The University of Texas at Austin, advises women entering STEM industries to “Know your rights. Explore the culture of a company before you sign on to work for them. Understand the setting you’re headed into by talking to employees and others in your industry. Be brave and be bold and be confident.”
“What will happen to my career if I decide to have children?”
“More often than not, it is the woman who has the added burden of giving up her career for her family,” says Luann Abrams. “If a woman wants to stay at home with her kids for a few years, I’d recommend she continue to stay involved in the industry as much as possible to make re-entry a little easier.” Many tech and computer companies offer ‘returnships’ for women and other minorities who want to re-enter the workforce after a break.
Additional STEM Development Resources For Girls and Women
These two- to three-day competitions cultivate software problem solving skills as participants build apps, games and/or tools based on the selected topic for the year. Dates and locations vary, and hackathons are held around the U.S.
Teams of girls from around the world identify a need in their community, then create a mobile app solution to address that need. They learn how to develop their ideas into a business, and earn prizes based on their ideas and solutions.
This national award honors girls who work computing and technology and want to pursue these fields in their educational careers. Recipients must show their interest and achievements in computing and express their continued plans for post-secondary education in technology.
Who It’s For: Middle to high school girls, ages 9 to 18
All Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia students who participate in a “Girls in Technology” program are able to apply for several different organization scholarships. They must submit an essay or video response to the yearly prompt to be considered.
Who It’s For: Female college students and adult women
The annual Abie Awards are held at the Grace Hopper Celebration, an annual event by the Anita B Foundation, and celebrate women technologists and those who support women in tech. There is an award designated for exceptional female undergraduate or graduate students.
Anyone interested in learning how to navigate and code in WordPress can sign up for a distance-learning course through Girls in Tech. The eight-week course is completely free and students learn from mentors as well as their instructor.
Who It’s For: Middle school students, ages 9 to 13
NASA provides the opportunity for middle schoolers to meet female engineers, mathematicians, and scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The week-long program also introduces participants to the many opportunities available through NASA, including internships and educational programs at Goddard.
Who It’s For: Female college students and adult women
COACh’s international workshops build the career skills of scientists and engineers, including communication, starting in STEM, presentation skills, leadership-building, negotiation and successful mentoring and networking.
An international conference focused on empowering, engaging, educating and supporting the entrepreneurship of women in technology. A range of women in tech attend the presentations, including software engineers, product marketers, students and digital marketers.
This yearly summit is designed to develop STEM talent-cultivation strategies and provides opportunities to discuss future STEM career pathways. It is led by employers in STEM fields and serves as a networking resource.
Who It’s For: Female college students and adult women
This national program provides mentorship opportunities to girls and women, seeking to help them succeed in STEM fields. Mentors can provide in-person or online mentorship, or offer paid internships or sponsorships to mentees.
Female mentors are available in over half of the United States to work with girls interested in pursuing chemistry education programs and careers.
Which College are Graduating Women in STEM?
Many colleges are already on board with the idea of making STEM curriculum more inclusive and exciting for everyone, including women. These innovative colleges and programs stand out more as they produce higher volumes of female tech grads. We’ve created a quick way get to know the schools; take a look at the map to find the top programs in your state, or the lists below that identify a range of excellent colleges. These are the schools getting ahead of the curve and seeing the highest numbers of female grads in science, computer technology, engineering and mathematic programs in the U.S.
Highest Volume and Percentage by State
To find the colleges and universities graduating the most women in STEM, click any state on the map and scroll to the tabs for a below for details and statistics by subject.
Attending a women’s college is also an option growing in popularity for women interested in pursuing STEM degrees. Women’s colleges boast a strong nurturing, supportive and communal environment, and this can be particularly beneficial for STEM students. From mentorship opportunities, scholarships, internships to extra programs that are designed to encourage women to pursue STEM, we’ve determined the women’s colleges that are graduating the most women into STEM fields.
Underrepresented and Underprivileged STEM Education Support
STEM fields benefit from bright, interested, creative students from diverse backgrounds and opportunity levels. Many organizations and schools are working to provide a greater range and higher quality of programs to students, and there are initiatives that seek to increase the diversity of students interested in STEM. Below are a few examples of educational support systems and opportunities available to students who are part of a racial, socioeconomic, or gender minority groups, including women, who may be interested in pursuing a STEM education.
Girl Scouts Imagine Stem This series through Girl Scouts of America works to engage girls in STEM. Parents, volunteers or girls who want to engage in this program can ask their local Girl Scout council about joining.
CODE Computer Science Principles CODE, which is endorsed by the College Board, provides curricula that are suitable for high school students new to computer science. Teachers interested in providing computer science classes to students will find many resources and various levels of classes that they can offer their students.
NMSI College Readiness Initiative The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) offers several programs to strengthen STEM education, including a College Readiness Program designed to increase the number of students succeeding in advanced math and science classes, particularly female students and African-American and Hispanic students.
Ventures Scholars This national membership program seeks to support minority and first-generation college applicants who want to pursue STEM degrees. Students are nominated for membership based on their academic achievements and can connect with institutions that have committed to support Ventures Scholars.
100K in 10 This national network is working to add 100,000 great STEM teachers into classrooms around the U.S. in order to educate children about STEM opportunities. Partners and supporters of 100K in 10 include academic institutions, nonprofits, companies and government organizations dedicated to supporting STEM teachers.
AISES Programs The American Indian Science and Engineering Society works with pre-college students as well as current college students and professionals to provide mentorship opportunities, programs, and events to encourage Native American people to engage in STEM fields.
Made with Code Google supports this program, which encourages teen girls to code with fun, creative projects and video examples of women succeeding in STEM.
NexGeneGirls This organization provides mentorship opportunities as well as after-school STEM programs for girls of color who live in low-income California Bay Area communities.
T-STEM Middle and high schools participating in the Texas STEM Initiative focus on improving existing STEM courses and increasing the number of students studying and pursuing STEM.
Women in Cell Biology (WICB) As an advocacy group within the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), members support women’s voices and encourage women to participate in the ASCB’s annual conference.
MESA Schools Program A partnership of 11 states that have joined together to encourage disadvantaged elementary, middle, and high school students to achieve academically in math, science and engineering. The program includes academic skill training, college and career explorations, and specialized classes for students to work on math, engineering and science projects.
PLTW Computer Science Project Lead the Way (PLTW) works to engage high school students in creating technology and developing computer science skills and educational strategies. Teachers gain access to professional development opportunities to teach these computer science programs to their students.
Women Changing Careers or Going Back to School in STEM
Careers in STEM, particularly in computer science and engineering, are projected to expand rapidly in the next decade, and the salaries and opportunities in these positions are very favorable. No matter what career stage you are in, it’s a great time to get into STEM, even if you studied in an unrelated field. Here are some tips to build your confidence if you’re considering changing directions and starting over in STEM.
Look into programs that suit your schedule. Full-time classes are possible, but there are ways to work and take classes part-time. Certificate programs in the STEM fields are a lower time commitment and often lower cost.
Learn more about the curriculum, and some of the teaching methods and learning styles different professors use, before enrolling in a STEM class.
Get into a growth mindset and keep trying when you encounter educational challenges or hard classes. Challenges are opportunities to learn, and struggling with new concepts is a part of learning and growing at a student.
Find a program that offers opportunities to connect with others in your field. You can find great mentorships and support systems through networking organizations and events. Develop relationships with your peers, especially other women.
Discover how a college is making their program accessible to beginning students. Look for programs explicitly welcoming new learners by accommodating different levels of experience and providing early research opportunities.
Take advantage of office hours to talk to your professors if you have any questions about the material or your future. You have the opportunity to speak with people who have experiences you can learn from, and you can show your commitment to your own education.
Don’t commit to a program without considering time and cost. There are informal low-cost or no-cost ways to learn coding basics, science and math outside of school. Online courses are a great option to learn more about an area of STEM before you commit to enrollment with an accredited institution.
Don’t be afraid to take a class because you don’t understand what it means yet. If you’re not sure what a class really entails, talk to your advisor or get in touch with the professor to learn more.
Don’t consider other women in your field to be a threat to your own job prospects. Companies and programs may hire limited numbers of women trying to fill a diversity quota, but female allies can make working in a male-dominated environment easier.
Don’t believe that just because a class is difficult, you shouldn’t be in STEM. There are many aspects of a STEM degree, and struggling in one class or area does not mean that you won’t succeed in your field overall.
Don’t struggle through a class you’re having a tough time understanding. Asking questions is an important part of learning, and working on a complicated problem or project alone can be frustrating. Ask for help when you need it—it is not a sign of weakness and is often respected and expected by professors.
STEM Resources For Women Seeking Career Change
National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) This national non-profit supports women’s participation in computing by helping other organizations recruit, retain and advance women in tech and entrepreneurial careers. NCWIT provides alliances and mentorship, free resources and programs to members.
Path Forward Path Forward is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people to restart their careers after they have spent time away for maternity leave or other caregiving responsibilities. They work with companies to create mid-career internships that give women (and men) a jumpstart back to the paid workforce.
Society of Women Engineers (SWE) This organization works to help women achieve their full potential in engineering and leadership roles. SWE provides a range of programming for continued learning, including podcasts, graduate school resources and professional development sessions.
Women in Bio webinars Through this membership organization, experts provide ongoing, monthly webinars that discuss various topics relevant to women working in biology fields. Members also have access to a video library of past webinars.
STEM-based companies have begun initiatives to expand the number of minorities and women they hire and work to retain. They recognize that diversity contributes to company culture and company success, and women interested in entering tech and engineering companies can find many careers where they will shine. Below are a few examples of major STEM companies that offer incentives and other opportunities specifically for women.
This company maintains several advisory groups—The Inclusion and Equal Opportunity office and the Aerospace Diversity Action Committee—to ensure Aerospace can attract, employ, and retain diverse talent. These committees also advise on workplace practices and other inclusion issues at the company.
The telecommunications company AT&T, headquartered in Texas, offers an employee resource group to women who are employed by or interested in working for AT&T. This group promotes the value of women’s contributions and also offers resources for careers at AT&T for military spouses.
In 2017, General Electric committed to establish equal gender representation in entry-level technical programs and increase the number of women hired at the company by 2020. They introduced an advisory council to assist with retention strategies and developing career advancement and leadership cultivation, and have sponsored GE Girls to encourage girls around the U.S. to engage in STEM.
Intel is a U.S.-based technology company that expresses a commitment to diversity and inclusion on their website. Their strategies for encouraging diverse hires and retaining these employees include advisors that employees can reach out to for career insight and support, and resource groups that connect employees with peers who share common backgrounds, such as the Women at Intel Network. They also committed a division of Intel to invest in businesses led by women and minorities.
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