Economic Security for Women Via STEM Career Opportunities
Jobs continue to be the topic of greatest importance to Americans inside and out of the Beltway. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) jobs continue to attract a lot of attention because of the financial impact for individuals and the country. However, there are issues with the unique skill sets required to execute these jobs and debates about whether there is an adequate workforce to fill these positions. This past month AWIS was invited to participate in a conference hosted by the National Council for Research on Women and the Ford Foundation. The purpose of this forum was to address ways to improve economic security for women, particularly among the most vulnerable populations, by getting more of them into STEM jobs. As experts in the STEM space, the symposium gave us an opportunity to highlight some of the issues that prevent women from getting into STEM careers as well as those that cause them to drop out of the pipeline. It also provided us with the opportunity to learn more about the collective impact model which has previously been successful in other endeavors. It works by drawing together a wide range of stakeholders with similar goals, but perhaps infrequently overlapping spheres of influence, who each contribute something unique to the strategic development and execution.
Earlier in the month we attended a panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on job training programs to give people negatively impacted by the recession the skills needed to make them more marketable and attractive to the changing workforce. The speakers examined programs that have worked within the United States, like the Job Corps and Job Plus, as well as successful models in other countries. Both of these events highlight the importance of engaging industry to step up in developing programs to help train workers. They are the largest group articulating the need for a highly skilled, but not necessarily highly educated, workforce to fill the gaps in employment. Unfortunately, even if these companies decide there is an economic incentive for them to develop training programs, it still leaves out much of the potential workforce that also needs access to quality, affordable childcare. This is an issue for women at all levels of the workforce with children who don’t have a stay at home husband to care for them. It seems like such a small problem. Yet until we, as a nation, find a way to address this problem, the wage gap will persist, the cycles of intergenerational poverty will continue to be a limiting factor for economic security, and women will continue to lag behind men in advancing through the ladders of corporate and academic success.