Chelsea Clinton hosted a discussion on Monday about STEM-based education and how it can lead women to successful careers. STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—are dominated by men, and girls today are still largely opting out of these subjects as they choose their career paths. She explained in her opening remarks that while women have made great strides over the last two decades in many areas, "one area where not only does a gap remain, but a gap has grown, is in the participation of women and girls in the STEM fields," in the US and around the world.
Clinton notes that today, "there are fewer girls who are aspirational in the United States in the math and science fields than there were twenty years ago, we have significantly fewer women graduating with computer science degrees, we have significantly fewer women graduation with mechanical engineering degrees than we did in the 1980s." This trend not only limits career options for girls and women, but also limits talent in these growing fields. "We know that more than a million jobs are being created in the next decade in the STEM fields, and we want to have the best and brightest in those jobs." That obviously can't happen if an entire population is left out.
Held at the planetarium in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, From STEM to Success: A No Ceilings Conversation brought together middle and high school-aged girls with successful women in STEM fields to share how their science and math backgrounds led them to their current careers. Panelists included Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, and Danielle Feinberg, a Director of Photography at Pixar Animation Studios, with moderator Kari Byron, Co-Host of Discovery Channel's Mythbusters.
The event was streamed live and invited people around the world to submit questions online and answer polling questions via Bing Pulse. Asked what keeps women form entering STEM professions, 32 percent of participants chose "social norms or pressure," and 25 percent responded "not having a supportive environment." In talking about what does get girls interested, one audience member, now a computer science major at Harvard, credited going to STEM events, where she met other girls who were interested in these subjects too and realized she had a network of support.
Students from STEM programs in the Denver area participated in the discussion, along with women in STEM-related professions ranging from city planning to technology development. The event was part of the Clinton Foundation's No Ceilings: Full Participation Project, which aims to advance the participation of women and girls everywhere. You can watch the video of the event on the foundation's website, and keep the conversation going!