This Friday, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) will host its 6th Annual Young Women’s Conference to showcase the evolution of women in non-traditional careers, as well as to commemorate Women’s History Month. We have assembled a slate of top-notch programs, seminars, and networking opportunities for women of all ages and career aspirations, so this is an event you don’t want to miss. In a story in the Washington City Paper, Shani Hilton graciously endorsed our conference as well, although she rightly questioned the designation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers for women as “Non-Traditional.”
To be sure, OSSE agrees with her perspective, and the accomplishments of women in technology cannot be overstated. However, despite how much we truly look forward to the day where STEM-related industries are globally recognized as gender-neutral, today is not that day, and ‘Non-Traditional’ is not a career term we arbitrarily decided on but instead an official category defined by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in which one gender makes up less than 25% of the total number of workers in an occupation/career.
It may not seem like it now, especially in an area like D.C. with so many amazing females working in the field, but science, technology, engineering and math are still male-dominated industries in which women are far from reaching equity. Studies show women continue to be paid less on the dollar than men for the same work and still have fewer opportunities for advancement, and in regards to early engagement, consider how:
- Females comprised 56% of all Advanced Placement (AP) secondary school test takers in 2009, but fewer than 15% of females took the AP Computer Science Exam, the lowest representation of any AP discipline.
- Between 1983 and 2009, the share of Computer Science bachelor’s degrees awarded to women dropped from 36% to 21%.
Despite the sobering statistics, however, 1 million computer and information-related jobs are expected to be added to the U.S. workforce by 2014, so when considering that U.S. Universities anticipate graduating enough candidates with computer science bachelor’s degrees to fill only 50% of these jobs, this could not be a better time for women to emerge in STEM-related fields.
The OSSE Young Women’s Conference aims to do just that, to ‘flip the script’ and open doors for women to become technology creators and not just consumers. By introducing women from (grade) 8 to 18 (freshman year of college) to STEM-related disciplines and encouraging them to become STEM professionals, we can help the world evolve and make equality the new tradition.
And on the backs of the pioneering women in science, technology, engineering, and math that paved the way, Friday is a step in the right direction.