Despite receiving the same education as their male counterparts, women with STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are actually less likely to work in a STEM occupation.
One important step to closing the gender gap in STEM fields is sharing the stories of women thriving in these careers — and not just the role models of STEM women in history, but the stories of those in the field today. University of Phoenix believes that shining a spotlight on women who are making waves will help inspire future generations of female tech geniuses.
Following are stories about four intrepid women who are making a name for themselves in tech and who are helping to shape the future of the industry.
Meilani Conley knew early on that she was destined to pursue a career in science and mathematics. Though the adults in her life tried to dissuade her — telling her that women have fewer opportunities in STEM fields than men — Conley persevered and currently holds a Bachelor of Computer Science and Mathematics from Southwest Baptist University and a Master of Information Systems from University of Phoenix.
Conley’s passion for computers began when she was nine years old. She was constantly fascinated by the inner workings of electronics. While the kids in her class daydreamed about summer vacation, Conley’s mind was filled with metal, wires and electricity. She’s proved that you can beat the status quo by pushing yourself and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Clarkson University.
Kristen Hoyt, Academic Dean for the College of Information Systems and Technology at University of Phoenix, has a lot to say about women pursuing careers in tech.
“In 1996, women made up about 37 percent of the IT workforce, but in 2010 that number dropped to 25 percent,” said Hoyt in one radio interview. In fact, as of 2014, the most common occupations for women were secretaries, administrative assistants, and teachers.
Hoyt’s program at University of Phoenix is directly fighting back to change this statistic by developing partnerships to advance women in technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is projected that there will be 1.4 million computer-science jobs by 2020 but not enough individuals with the skills to apply for those jobs.
Hoyt was persistent in her interests while growing up and says she was fortunate enough to take a coding class early on. This led to a degree in programming that ultimately brought her to the role of Academic Dean for University of Phoenix College of Information Systems and Technology.
What else is to be done to ensure equality in the workforce? Hoyt said she believes in establishing a “technology-based foundation from the earliest days of our children’s educations,” and cites her own experience as the reason she believes in jumpstarting technology education for students at a young age.
Stephenie Gloden is the vice president of Enterprise Resource Management for Apollo Education Group, a position she earned through her persistence and years of hard work. With more than 20 years of IT experience — primarily focused on software development and IT operations leadership — Gloden sought out a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and a Master of Business Association from University of Phoenix, along with a Master of Science in Information Management from Arizona State University.
Gloden’s most recent initiative is University of Phoenix startup, the RedFlint experience center located in downtown Las Vegas. As co-founder and business lead for strategy, Gloden is responsible for educating, incubating and accelerating ideas that solve the problems facing small businesses and the local community – including non-profits, schools and hospitals. Gloden’s diehard entrepreneurial spirit brought her to where she is today — something both men and woman should strive for in their careers.
What can you do to be an ally to women and ensure you’re doing everything in your power to help them succeed? The answer is far simpler than you may think.
According to Charity Jennings, “to cultivate and sustain diverse perspectives and expand the pipeline of IT talent, women must feel welcome in the industry.”
Jennings serves as the program dean for University of Phoenix College of Information Systems and Technology, and has expanded her role to take on high profile technology projects that have University-wide impact.
“Whether women are writing code or leading the next IT startup in Silicon Valley […] it’s critical to get our young women engaged and excited about becoming future engineers, web developers, tech entrepreneurs and executives.”
Jennings says that the responsibility lies in the hands of “educators, corporations, policy makers, community leaders and parents” to help cultivate and nurture the interests of young women and help them reach their goals.
So when you see your daughter, cousin, niece or student taking apart her PC or fiddling with the HTML of a website, you can play a role in helping her explore opportunities in STEM by encouraging her interests – and by showing her all of the opportunities for a career in tech.
The message to women everywhere is clear: the tech industry needs you.