Best Practices for Growing the STEM Pipeline for Women: Moving From Collegiate Excellence to Industry Success

Best Practices for Growing the STEM Pipeline for Women: Moving From Collegiate Excellence to Industry Success

Julie C. Murphy (University of Texas at Dallas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4108-1.ch012
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In today's fast paced education system, a huge emphasis has been placed on increasing the number of women who want to enter college studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Many holistic interventions, particularly in engineering happening during the high school years, are already seeing results with college women investigating roles in engineering at a higher rate than in the past. However, the initial success they are experiencing in traditionally male-dominated STEM fields is not manifesting itself long term. It is clear that more strategies are needed to place women in the position to be more confident entering the workforce in all STEM fields especially engineering. This chapter will look at the innovative ways mentoring is being used during the course of a student's collegiate experience to keep women invested in the STEM fields and how more needs to be done in this area particularly for our minority women in order to grow the STEM pipeline permanently.
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Prior to the mid-1980s, one of the major barriers to gender equality that women faced was to attain parity in terms of college enrollment and attendance (e.g., Jaschik, 2015; Perry, 2009; Sandberg, 2012). This barrier was conquered over thirty years ago, when for the first time 50% of the college graduates in the United States were female (Perry, 2009). In 2014, after a shift lasting over 75 years, women were officially more likely than men to have a bachelor’s degree (Jaschik, 2015). These numbers are evidence that the tide has turned in favor of the female gender in degree attainment and overall parity in college attendance (Jaschik, 2015; Sandberg, 2012). Further evidence of this shifting trend is offered by the Pew Research Center (2012) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data that shows females have outpaced males in college enrollment over the past 20 years, especially among Hispanics and Blacks (as cited in Lopez & Gonzalez-Barerra, 2014). However, despite the accessibility to and success women are having on college campuses, women still face many barriers when it comes to balancing careers and other obligations post-graduation. These barriers tend to affect a women’s ability to pursue advanced education or to have a family (Schein, 2001). Furthermore, the progress women are making in higher education is not translating into long-term success in the work force (Barreto, Ryan & Schmitt, 2009). Evidence of this is men still holding the majority of leadership positions in government and industry, as well as the gender pay gap remaining stagnant (e.g., Bertrand, Goldin, & Katz, 2010; Perry, 2009; Sandberg, 2012).

Over the past 50 years, women have worked hard to close the gender gap in regards to pay, leadership opportunities and benefits in comparison to their male counterparts in both education and industry jobs (e.g., Arora et al., 2011; Barsh & Yee, 2011; Culter, 2012; Dube, 2004; Halvorson, 2011; Hogue et al., 2010; Morganson et al., 2010; Schein, 2001; Sennett, 2006; Spar, 2013; Stone & Hernandez, 2012). The gap is now stagnant with the statistics of women holding the highest leadership positions in the United States only increasing slightly year to year (Aguilar, 2013).

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