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Could STEM scholarships for women be the key to closing the gender gap in tech?

Ellie Martin | Aug. 5, 2016
How can companies help bridge the existing gender gap in tech?

By providing material resources through STEM scholarships and shifting the way they recruit in order to target more women, tech companies and their partners are beginning to step up to the challenge of closing the gender gap.

At the same time, broader cultural issues relating to how women are portrayed in the media and by their colleagues in tech still abound. Scholarships are certainly not the be-all and end-all solution, but they provide important initial access points into the tech sector and help to develop a new narrative as women in tech excel and begin to shift the dialogue through their own leadership in the field.

Developing stronger pathways into STEM

While offering STEM scholarships are definitely a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to create pathways for women into the tech sector. Currently, no states actually require a computer science (CS) class for high school graduation. Therefore, the vast majority of students do not take a single computer science course throughout their K-12 education. At the same time, only 25% of high school principals report that their school offers a CS course that includes programming, and only 5% of high schools are certified to offer AP computer science.

With so few schools offering CS, this amplifies gender, class, and racial disparities as jobs and opportunities go to those who have the resources to gain an extracurricular computer science background. Tech companies like Google have responded by rolling out education programs such as CS First which are meant to supplement what students learn in K-12 schools by providing them access and exposure to computer science through after-school and summer programs.

Another example is Etsy and Intel partnering with organizations such as Girls Who Code and Girl Develop to build strong educational programs that support aspiring female developers by helping them acquire hard skills and giving them positive female tech role models. These companies and organizations are working towards creating a much more robust pool of female candidates from which top companies can recruit. Education programs like these partner well with STEM scholarships to make a stronger strategy for closing the gender gap in tech.

Cohesive strategies is critical

A multi-faceted problem like the gender gap in tech requires a multi-pronged set of solutions.Tech companies are catching onto this quickly and working with partner organizations to connect their various strategies to solve both short-term and long-term gender gap issues. In the near term, strengthening recruitment efforts with generous STEM scholarships for women and targeted campaigns to support female tech talent can immediately boost women's representation in tech.

In the longer term, building stronger pathways for women to enter the workforce with STEM training during secondary education is needed to ultimately close the gender gap as it exists today. With expanded in-school training, STEM scholarships will continue to be strong tools in the broader effort to bring more women into the tech sector.

 

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