Girls in STEM: A Leap for (Wo)Mankind

By Gwendolyn Bluemich

When I was a little girl, my father gave me a chemistry set for my 13th birthday.Chemistry?I thought. What am I going to do with THAT? … But my dad is a scientist. A very important one, at that. So, naturally, he wanted his daughter to both appreciate and explore the wonders of a field that is increasingly gaining in attention: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math). And, gradually, I did.

Unfortunately, these days, not many girls are blessed with dads like mine. Granted, I ended up going a slightly different academic route than he had probably hoped for – studying not a science, per se, but rather, pursuing the “softer” fields of economics and public policy. Yet, here I am, several years later, reveling in the excited faces of middle school girls goofing around in cleanroom “bunny” suits, creating squishy slime out of borax, and oohing and awwing at the site of LEGO robots at our recent GLOBALGirls event.

Bringing more women into the STEM fold is important for several reasons: For one, they add diversity – of thought, of communication, and of leadership styles. They bring fresh perspectives and new approaches to problem solving – all key attributes that manufacturers are looking for. In addition, they help businesses be more successful – as much as 35 percent more, according to a recent study.

Without women, we would not have computers (shout out to Ada Lovelace and her Analytical Machine); we would not have made many advances in physics and chemistry (thank you, Marie Curie); and we probably would not have been able to claim victory in World War II had it not been for Rosie the Riveter and all of those brave women who supported the U.S. effort at the frontlines of manufacturing. By embracing gender diversity, we win: we boost productivity and creativity while, at the same time, driving economic growth.

And women win, too! According to the White House, women in STEM jobs benefit from a 33 percent higher salary compared to those in non-STEM occupations – and they face smaller wage gaps relative to men. In addition, STEM careers offer women the opportunity to be involved at the leading edge of innovation and technology.

I may not have studied physics (like my dad did) or material science (like my female colleagues did), but here I am today working for a high-tech company to help develop the future talent pipeline. The added bonus? As manager of strategic education and workforce development initiatives at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, I get to inspire young women in the same way my dad inspired me 20 years ago, and has continued to since then.

Initiatives like STEP Ahead attempt to tackle the gender gap by promoting the role of women in manufacturing. The Manufacturing Institute has recognized GF’s Deb Leach, senior director for Procurement, and Amelia Folkins. 300mm Manufacturing engineer, among 130 Emerging Leaders and Honorees at the 2016 STEP Ahead Awards.

But women used to be girls once, too! So how do we make chemistry sets cool again to attract more girls to STEM fields?

Whether you are a mother, a father, an educator, or a business professional, make a difference today. Help “EMPOWER” a young woman by:

  • Educating yourself, your students, your employees, and your community about the opportunities available in STEM today.
  • Mentoring a student; serving as a positive role model and helping instill in her the confidence she needs to believe in herself, so that she, too, can make a difference in the world.
  • Partnering with organizations already involved in Girls in STEM initiatives to maximize the extent and impact of your outreach.
  • Organizing an open house or Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY) at your school or facility to celebrate women in STEM and inspire the next generation of leaders.
  • Washing away the implicit bias that results in so many lost opportunities to recognize, embrace, and celebrate the potential and the talents that girls contribute to STEM.
  • Extending your reach into the community by developing your own STEM ambassadors program; and
  • Re-evaluating your initiatives, always. Identify what worked and what could be done better. Continue to search for new approaches and for new solutions – there is always room for improvement. The opportunities to make a difference are endless.

These actions may seem like a small feat but they can mean the world to (wo)mankind.

Feeling inspired? Looking for more ideas? Feel free to contact me at [email protected]