Opportunities for women in tech and STEM are opening up, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Currently, about one in four tech jobs is held by a woman. Entrepreneur.com interviewed successful women leaders from tech and STEM fields on their experiences. This article dispels five myths about women working in STEM and tech.
#1. Women Simply Aren't Interested In Working in Tech
Rashi Khurana, VP at Shutterstock
"I believe there is a myth that women are simply not interested in having a career in tech. Not enough girls are given the opportunity to be involved in STEM education programs at an early age, which is crucial to instilling excitement about science and math early on.
I come from a family of three daughters, and luckily our parents created that environment for us from the start. My dad was into math and computers and my mom was a botanist, so she loved the sciences. Getting kids excited at an early age is very important, be it through our education system or any other means. Too many women drop out of these majors early on because of the lack of excitement."
#2. Women Who Work In Tech Are Not Interested In Being A Mentor
Karen M. Jones, CMO at Ryder
"For me, the biggest myth has been around women mentors and tech. Even when I started my career 30 years ago at Compaq, there were women in senior positions who I looked up to and who served as mentors to me. I’ve always found women in Tech to be fantastic teachers and role models as I moved up the career ladder, and today I try to be a good role model in the same way. While women are limited in numbers within many companies, there are always a few daring souls who will go out of their way to provide advice, coaching and counsel if you simply ask. Additionally, I’ve found plenty of men throughout my career who have also been great role models, mentors and cheerleaders, contributing to my success. Find the men who are not challenged, but embrace diversity in an organization. You will instinctively know them by the people they surround themselves with."
#3. There Are Few Women Studying STEM Because Most Are Not Interested In Math
Kathleen Niesen, PepsiCo Sustainability Director
"It’s important that I acknowledge how far this field has come in the past 40 years. I started working in the technology arena in the late 1970s and at that time the percentage of women in the engineering disciplines was is in the low single digits nationally. As an example, the percentage of women in my graduating class was only 3 percent. The percentage of women graduating and working in STEM fields now is much higher and while I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied with where we are, I’m pleased with the progress that’s been made.
When I look at the various STEM fields today, women are still under represented. As a STEM community, we need to work harder to expose children at a young age to math, because other STEM fields rely heavily on math as a foundation. We need to make math more approachable and friendly. And, we need to challenge children — especially girls — when they say they don’t like math, or that they are “not good” at math. Girls tend to have less confidence in their math skills and higher levels of math anxiety, which is probably one of the reasons that girls steer away from STEM careers later in their schooling. If we can start reinforcing the benefits of math and giving girls the confidence they need to embrace it, we’ll see even more girls choosing technical education pathways, and women in the STEM fields."
#4. Women Just Are Not, "Technical"
Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business
"I believe the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM are around unconscious bias. Many paradigms exist that feed the perception that women are not 'as technical' and are not as proficient 'technical leaders' in various fields. Looking at the industry stats, there’s no question that several industries are behind…while others are leading the way. Those that are leading the way are purposefully ensuring that diversity and inclusion are an integral part of their strategies, culture, and performance initiatives. And importantly, progress and success are being measured — as articulated by the popular adage, you can only improve what you can measure."
#5. Women Are Either Good At Science Or Business, Not Both
Holly Blanchard, VP at Ingersoll Rand
"There is a misconception that you have to be good in math or science to be in a STEM role. I am a businessperson who is not particularly great at math but was still able to move into a technical field, and eventually take on a financial leadership role through a development opportunity. Again, it is about taking risk and facing your fears head on. While I think that there are still barriers — overall, women are taking on more roles in STEM and excelling.
We need to do more to mentor girls in junior high and high school. As part of our 2030 sustainability commitments, we pledged to invest $10 million to foster STEM and early education experiences while also investing in our own workforce development and retraining programs. Girls and boys are treated more equally today than they were in past generations, so that is good. But there is still opportunity to reach girls early on and educate them about the possibilities in STEM careers"