Bridging the STEM Gender Divide: One High Schooler at a Time

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One of the most popular topics of conversations I have with Nicole Bryan, Tasktop’s VP of Product, is the STEM gender divide and how to get more women into careers in tech.

Our Product team is 50 percent women, an unusually high number in the world of tech and one that we are incredibly proud of. Our other teams also strive for diversity and equality in their hiring practices, but this remains a challenge for our Software Engineering team.

According to the U.S. Government’s report, Women in STEM: 2017 Update:

  • Women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015, but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs. Likewise, women constituted over 50 percent of all college-educated workers, but made up only 25 percent of college-educated STEM workers.
  • While nearly as many women hold undergraduate degrees as men overall, they make up only about 30 percent of all STEM degree holders. Women make up a disproportionately low share of degree holders in all STEM fields, particularly engineering.

Women with STEM degrees are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; they are more likely to work in education or healthcare. While women are equally capable of excelling in STEM fields, something is preventing them from pursuing this career path. Gender stereotypes absorbed from a young age teach women that careers focusing on communication, social skills, and the arts are a better fit for them.  

When women see that their STEM classes are ~70 percent male, the ideas that they’ve absorbed form an early age (that STEM is not for them) are reaffirmed. If we want women to pursue careers in STEM, not only do we need to show women from a young age that STEM is a career that they can thrive in, but we also need to work on creating STEM communities and processes that are inviting and comfortable for women.

Gender equality is a pervasive problem in the North American tech sector, and one we are working on identifying concrete steps to solve at Tasktop. Some of the steps we’ve taken so far have included:

Most recently, we capped off our second year of working with the Ann Richards School on their annual internship program, which gives female students in their Junior year of high school an opportunity to gain experience at a professional organization for one week. I wish I had had this opportunity when I was in high school!

Our hope is that by giving young women the chance to see what it’s like to work at a tech company at a young age, we can help open their eyes to professional paths they may not have even known existed. By seeing the inspiring women in our office and getting hands on experience in the field, they can see that a career in tech is something attainable and fulfilling. Each year, I’m blown away by the incredible work that our interns are capable of achieving in such a short period of time.

In the words of our interns…

“It was a great experience to work with real professional women. It was different from what I had been learning in class as we hadn’t touched much on the basis of actual software, but a couple of engineers were very impressed that we had experience with Arduino! I learned a lot about what Tasktop does and is. Overall, I had a great time and I learned a lot. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to do this.” – Brisi Duran, student at Ann Richards School

“Nicole welcomed us into her office and explained what she does and how she reached that point in her career. While she was talking, she emphasized the importance of diversity and how it helps a company to grow because you have different perspectives. This was music to my ears because this is something I have learned and grown from during my time at Ann Richards. At Tasktop, I was surprised to learn that the ratio of women to men on the Product team was 50:50. This was a stark contrast to my mom’s work environment, where she is almost always the only woman. And I never really thought anything of it either, since it’s always been like this. However, my time at Tasktop has taught me that if you don’t want that to be the norm, it doesn’t have to be. While reading the posts Nicole wrote, talking with her, and working under Rebecca Dobbin and Naomi Lure, I was fascinated by how Tasktop has cultivated, and continues to cultivate, a workplace that is so diverse.” – Sage O’Brien, student at Ann Richards School

If you would like to learn more about our work with women in tech, our internship/co-op programs, and our other work in the community, please drop us a line!