Combatting Bias and Steering Girls Towards Careers in STEM

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By: Laura Barrowman, CTO at Credit Suisse

Ever since primary school, I have loved mathematics. There’s something about mental arithmetic and the satisfaction of finding a solution to a problem that captured — and has kept — my interest for decades. Augment that early passion with the good fortune of having some great teachers to fuel the enthusiasm, and you have an unbeatable equation for success.

Teachers’ ability to impact and inspire the future career path of their students is so often undervalued. One impactful teacher or memorable learning experience can help shape a young girl’s STEM career trajectory. Inversely, so can one negative one.

There’s a well-documented disconnect between girls and the pursuit of STEM subjects in their teens.

And this is largely due to the way young girls are taught STEM subjects and how they are socially conditioned by their teachers, parents and peers to think of careers as gender appropriate or specific.

With the glut of jobs on the horizon that require STEM skills growing exponentially and the number of girls seeking to pursue STEM subjects actually on the wane, the labor shortfall will be great – both in the number of well-trained STEM job applicants, and more particularly, qualified female applicants.

Recognizing this as a cause for real concern, educators are coming up with new and creative ways to teach tailored curriculum for science and maths that better align with research-based differences in learning patterns and preferences among genders – while simultaneously infusing fun into the equation. It is imperative, after all, that we educate our children for jobs of the future.

As the Chief Technology Officer for a financial services firm, I am concerned about the projected shortfall for both my future pipeline and perhaps more selfishly, for the caliber of innovation. My 20-plus years in the field of technology are testament to the fact that a diversity of voices produces the best products, technologies and innovations.

I intentionally take notice of the efforts by educators and administrators to develop creative educational path for kids, especially those with a clear vocational focus. Here are a few notable programs and methods.

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