#STEMforHer: Broadening the Definition of STEM

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Science, technology, engineering and maths... and so much more. What does #STEMforHer encompass? By Project Eve

As STEM continues to heavily influence today’s technological advances and future innovations, there is a growing demand to ensure women are largely represented in the STEM industry. With life as we know it daily evolving with new apps, social media’s global reach, and new innovative ideas rapidly entering the marketplace, the opportunities are boundless for women to pursue a career in STEM. Yet the STEM gender gap is discouraging.

The STEM Gender Gap

In a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce only one in seven engineers are female, a stark reality for the making of the female equivalent of Steve Jobs. Strengthening the pipeline of women in STEM is a priority conversation that should be at the forefront of discussions with policymakers, business leaders, and the women’s business community. Most recently the National Women’s Business Council initiated an online Twitter conversation to discuss broadening the pathways for women entrepreneurs and girls to pursue STEM.

The ongoing #STEMforHer twitter dialogue ranged from addressing the STEM gender gap, targeting girls at a young age, and cultivating public/private partnerships to create an accelerator focused solely on women in STEM. When it comes to addressing the STEM gender gap, many issues surface as contributors to the lag of women in STEM, including: women’s access to capital, gender-bias, lack of women in the STEM pipeline, etc.

Social Context

However, a Cornell University research abstract written on the topic of women’s underrepresentation in STEM suggests ‘socially contextualizing STEM’ as a solution. What does that mean? In a big picture view it means broadening the definition of STEM making it socially inclusive to innovators that may feel that their product doesn’t necessarily fit into the definition of “science-tech.” As said best by a young woman participating in the National Women’s Business Council’s #STEMforHer twitter dialogue:

“I wasn’t interested in STEM until I realized how creative it was. We need to teach girls STEM isn’t just calculating, it's art! #STEMforHer”

Opening up

Right-on! STEM marketing needs a facelift and targeting should focus on marketing STEM as a unisex field engaging males and equally engaging females. I’m hopeful increased STEM marketing efforts to women and girls are underway by prominent organizations. Take Forbes, for example, when they highlighted a young woman-of-color pursing STEM in their most recent 30 under 30 list. The young woman highlighted is noticeably young, a woman-of-color, and donning a lunch box; 3 visible characteristics that resonates with an array of young girls.

To effectively broaden the definition of STEM, it’s time for large and small corporations to implement new messaging, marketing, and media that takes STEM beyond the science-tech marketing approach and into broadly marketing STEM as a creative industry. Marketing STEM as a creative industry will alter the seemingly popular perception of STEM as reserved for high-tech adept men.

As we know, STEM plays a pivotal role in driving economic growth and keeping America competitive. If we don’t begin to shape STEM in a way that targets men and women, boys and girls equally, there’s a huge risk of leaving a large sector of untapped potential by the wayside.

This post originally appeared on Project Eve


About the guest blogger: Project Eve is an online community where over 2.5m women go to reinvent their careers. With engaging articles and interactive tools Project Eve motivates women to think beyond traditional boundaries, support one another, embrace change and view challenges as opportunities.