Breaking Down Barriers: Encouraging Women In STEM

Women only account for 19 percent of the workforce in the oil and gas industry, with more than half of that percentage working in administrative or support positions. While 61 percent of U.S. energy companies have no women on their boards, females are grossly underrepresented in STEM fields. In an effort to tackle this gender disparity, new initiatives have arisen to encourage more females to pursue STEM careers. These organizations are calling on males and females throughout STEM fields to encourage the advancement of women into leadership roles.

Million Women Mentors, is a call to action that mobilizes corporations, government entities, non-profit and higher education groups to mentor young women in STEM fields. It’s a proven fact that we can better emulate those we relate to. If more young girls see strong female leaders in STEM, they are more likely to view them as role models and pursue similar fields.

In Pennsylvania, STEM-UP-PA seeks to improve recruitment, retention, and advancement of female faculty in STEM academic disciplines. Pointing to research that shows only 27 percent of deans in PA are female, this organization hopes to identify and amend policies that have stunted the advancement of women within STEM academia. MWM and STEM-UP-PA are breaking down barriers for women within STEM by fostering an environment that encourages female progress and participation.

With strong role models like Lynn Good, CEO at Duke Energy, the statistics regarding women in energy are anticipated to increase in the coming years. In an interview, Good pointed out that having both male and female mentors has been crucial to the success of her career. As a teenager, Lynn’s father encouraged her to pursue a STEM-related college degree, a choice she may have never considered otherwise. This demonstrates the importance of men and boys across the country encouraging their sisters, daughters, and nieces to pursue STEM careers.

Ellen Kullman, the first female CEO of DuPont, is an equally powerful force within the energy industry. Armed with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering, her success is evidence of what STEM education has to offer women in the U.S. As more women are beginning to explore STEM industries, they need the continued support and encouragement from business leaders and peers in these fields.

Attracting more women to STEM has become a nationwide mission and a responsibility for business leaders. The demand for workers in STEM far outweighs the supply, as the number of available jobs it set to increase exponentially. Especially within Pennsylvania, as the natural gas industry continues to boom, there are more opportunities than ever for women to enter these fields.

A major obstacle for women in the past has been a hesitation to enter an industry that is so heavily male-dominated. In the U.S., women make up almost half of the workforce, but in STEM, they only account for 24 percent. With the help of MWM and STEM-Up-PA spotlighting prominent female mentors, women are beginning to take their seat at the table without any hesitation at all.


Andrea Fetchko  |  BRAVOGROUP  |  Harrisburg

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