Why Aren’t More Women Participating in STEM?

Guest post: Esteban Garcia, Data Analyst, Orthus Health; MBA Candidate, Florida International University; Volunteer, Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub

On Wednesday, August 11th, Florence Hudson, Executive Director of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub, co-hosted a roundtable on Women in STEM as part of the NSF Includes Virtual Convening. This digital conversation aimed to encourage and foster the participation of women in STEM.  Hudson co-hosted the roundtable with Dr. Sarah Lee, Professor & Director, School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering, University of Southern Mississippi. Together, they touched on the barriers that women often face in STEM industries, such as being more likely to be dissuaded from pursuing careers in STEM, and what steps to take to hurdle over those barriers.  Those steps included inspiring young women in STEM, developing opportunities, leveraging tools, techniques, organizations and more. 

The roundtable offered a great opportunity for attendees to ask questions and learn about topics in the industry with like minded individuals who are interested in a career in STEM.  There are many additional upcoming NSF Includes events, which you can learn about on their website. Register today!

It’s easy to feel discouraged to participate in the STEM industry with all the numbers, coding languages and fancy sounding titles like Data Scientist or Data Engineer. When I think of scientists, I think of people in lab coats concocting bubbling liquids, not necessarily someone sitting behind a desk typing code.  Personally, I never envisioned myself as a scientist or engineer. The last time that I touched a beaker was in high school.  However, because of my passion for sports and being naturally analytical, I chose to pursue a career in big data and I enjoy using my skills to help organizations find solutions and make smarter decisions.  And I’m sure the same applies to you: data is generated everywhere, every second.  Fashion, music, sports, business, finance; you name it.

In the world of data, you are faced with sad truths at times.  However, we can make a difference by using our data to make smart decisions that often have a large impact.  Florence Hudson touched on a point during her half of the Women in STEM presentation that is worth reiterating: a big reason for the gender gap in data science is that from an early age is that many women are discouraged from pursuing a career in STEM.  That is unacceptable. However, it was research and data that has allowed us to become aware of this fact.  A fact that can be reversed just by changing our attitudes and where we can make a difference at a grassroots level. A bit of problematic data that can be resolved by the people who are reading this. Everyone who is in position to do something should, simply because it’s as easy as encouraging, supporting, or mentoring the next generation of women STEM workers and leaders. 

My childhood dream was to play for a professional baseball organization, hit home runs like my heroes and win championships. But when I realized that my talents wouldn’t take me to the majors, I focused my efforts on school. Lucky for me, data opened opportunities to work in baseball since major league teams use advanced statistics that need further analysis to identify the next generation of great ballplayers.  And with the vast growth of the data industry, a similar path may be available for you to help an organization prosper by using data that will allow a business or organization to make smart decisions. So while I’m not hitting home runs like my heroes, I can get paid by a professional baseball organization to analyze the starts of my heroes and the next generation of players, track their home runs and help those organizations win championships.

Additional Resources:

The Gender Gap in Data Science (and What You Can Do About It),” DataQuest

There are many organizations that cater to women enduring hardships in the data field. Among them are: Mississippi [3] Coding Academy, Last Mile, MS Codeworks, the Society for Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and many others.