Careers within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries are full of promise and every year students flock to these majors and education programs. In 2020, STEM occupations paid more than double the annual salary of jobs in other industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the nation has seen a severe uptick in demand for careers in STEM since with 2023 projections expecting STEM industries to continue to grow.
However, women, especially BIPOC women, are severely underrepresented in STEM jobs, even though women comprise nearly half the U.S. workforce. Where women once occupied only eight percent of STEM jobs in 1970, a 2019 report shows women hold 27 percent of jobs in STEM fields, though the field is still dominated by male workers (73%). Interest in STEM seems to wane as girls grow up, and experts attribute part of this decline to the lack of representation in the field.
Initiatives such as Greater Than Tech aim to course correct this trend by empowering young women of color and underserved students to enter STEM careers. The non-profit brings immersive STEM and business education programs to women and underserved populations to create the next generation of technology leaders. The organization instills the importance of self-efficacy, STEM entrepreneurship and social impact throughout their programming and provides students with access to workshops, demo days, development programs, and training to build confidence and pave their own path in the STEM industry.
Jasmine LeFlore, co-founder of Greater Than Tech, 2022 Outstanding Engineering Service Award winner by the San Diego County Engineering Council, 2021 Black Engineer of The Year Science Spectrum Award winner, and 2020 Women of Color STEM Community Service in Industry Award winner, recently shared with her 2023 predictions in STEM industries and education with Fierce Education. Ultimately, LeFlore is optimistic that the field will see continued diversity and growth.
The next generation of STEM workers relies on the quality and support of early education STEM programs. “In STEM education, I think we’re going to start seeing modular lessons that are mixed and matched to meet students’ particular interests, as opposed to applying entire curriculums to each student,” said Jasmine LeFLore. “We’ll also start seeing younger kids beginning to interact with STEM programs a lot earlier in their elementary education.”
LeFlore also predicts that the industry will experience a rise of female workers as representation in the field increases and programs like Greater Than Tech connect the next generation of young women with vital resources. “STEM in the U.S. can seem far-fetched for many girls and young women, especially girls and women of color. Many times, in STEM classrooms and workplaces, there is only one woman of color in the room, which can be intimidating or daunting to women interested in entering the STEM workforce,” LeFlore shared. “Programs [like Greater Than Tech] allow kids to be around people who look like them and have front-row seats to STEM entrepreneurship…This hasn’t been the case in the past, and I think that in 2023 we’ll see the number of women in STEM increasing because of the visibility in the industry.”
“Women have more financial freedom now than ever, leading to more women becoming entrepreneurs, specifically in the STEM industries,” LeFlore said in closing. “In 2023, I think we’ll see an increase in the number of women- and BIPOC-owned STEM businesses."