Earlier this week at a panel hosted by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash a number of female CEOs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field came to tell lawmakers what they need to create jobs. But several of the executives ended up talking about the jobs, and even potential jobs, that remain unfilled at their companies. Lisa Hook, CEO of Neustar Inc., a Sterling, Va.-based telecommunications company, said the problem starts in the classroom. Not enough kids are being trained to go into STEM. By 2018, there will be 1.4 million computing job openings in the United States, but given graduation rates, only 29% of those jobs will be filled by U.S. graduates; 40 states produce fewer computing graduates than needed to fill projected openings in their states; and most disturbingly the number of girls studying computing has declined 13% in the past 10 years. Hook said the lack of girls going into this field was an issue near and dear to her heart.
A survey by the Bayer Corporation came out today showing that American women entering college are the best prepared academically to hit the books and successfully graduate with a STEM degree (82%), according to a survey of faculty from the nation’s top 200 research universities who chair STEM departments. However, many of these women don’t end up graduating with these degrees. The chairs say being discouraged from a STEM career is still an issue today for both female and underrepresented minority (URM) STEM undergraduate students (59%) and that traditional rigorous introductory instructional approaches that “weed out” students early on from STEM studies are generally harmful and more so to URM (56%) and female (27%) students compared to majority students (i.e. Caucasian and Asian males). “One of the greatest challenges most universities face is changing the culture of teaching and learning in STEM courses,” said Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Hrabowski said:
“Too often, we in higher education believe high quality is related to how many students are weeded out of STEM courses. Instead, the emphasis should be on rigorous course work coupled with support, together leading to larger numbers of students succeeding academically. We should also be giving faculty support, including professional development opportunities, enabling them to redesign courses, make the best use of technology, and encourage group collaboration.”
And obviously this problem is also contributing to a lot of jobs in this field not being filled. “It’s incredibly challenging to get good technical people,” said Alison Brown, CEO of Navsys Corp., a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based GPS technology company. “There’s an enormous amount of demand, there’s competition, quite frankly between industries and labs and federal institutes.”
Watch the video of the CEOs petition to lawmakers below:
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