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Keeping Women in High-Tech Fields Is Big Challenge, Report Finds

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A U.S. high school student receiving technology and engineering instruction.

A new study found U.S. women working in STEM fields 45 percent more likely to leave the industry within a year than their male peers.

Credit: Kristyna Wentz-Graff

A recent Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) report found U.S. women working in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are 45 percent more likely than their male peers to leave the industry within a year.

The study also found that about 33 percent of STEM leaders reported a woman would never reach the top position in their companies.

"Even the senior guys who are in a position to make change for the women in their company don't feel like they can do it," says CTI's Laura Sherbin.

The survey questioned 5,685 college-educated adults, 2,349 of whom were women, with experience in a private-sector science, engineering, or technology company. The study found gender bias underpins why women either do not think they can get ahead or are choosing to leave their organizations.

"When the prevailing leaders are all men, it's very difficult for women to look, act, and sound like the leaders they succeed," Sherbin says.

The report updates a 2008 CTI study which reached similar conclusions. This year's report also studied women in emerging markets and found the situation was similar in those countries.

From The Washington Post
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


Peji Asprey

The reason there are so few female leaders at the top is because if one temporarily opts out to raise her own children (who better to raise them than a smart mommy?) one is simply not welcome to return. It wounds me that even the techno-women's groups largely ignore the post-kid-hiatus reentry problem! And the few women at the top either got lucky early and have huge staffs to support them, had no children, or...shoot me now...were okay with daycare, and dear lord, sickrooms.

I was lucky - after staying home for 13 years, I was fortunate enough to have an ex-colleague bring me back in because, as HE so eloquently put it, the company "needed my gray matter." (Thanks MM!) After a few months in that very male company, I felt my family life was being shredded so I quit and cast about for alternatives. I ultimately founded a company with a MAN who also wanted to be able to have time for his family (we just successfully sold it!).

My point is this: As it stands tech is a square hole and we keep asking round-pegged women to square themselves by compromising their other selves and families. If you want diversity, then create a place that supports the biological imperatives of women - and puhleeeze do not even mention nursing rooms - gag me. Having a baby and caring for constantly changing humans forces the female brain to achieve stunning new heights of problem solving and IT needs those brains! Give us a path back and you'll have a bright, shiny workforce filled with fabulous women engineers...and young girls will see that they are welcome to be engineers and women, not pseudo-men. Branding shmanding - functional change is the solution!

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