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Opening the doors to more women in STEM fields

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Four years ago I read Gloria Feldt’s No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change the Way We Think About Power and it changed my career. It taught me about the ways in which our ancestors fought to open doors—both professionally and personally—for women in our nation and yet many of us do not take advantage of these opportunities. Yet, statistics show that today women only make up 24 percent of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce in the U.S. I am proud to be a small representative of it, and am happy that my company continues holding open the doors that Feldt discussed.

At Q2, women compose almost half of the User Experience Design team – with numbers increasing in development, QA and C-level positions. So, I cannot help but wonder: Why aren’t more women stepping through the doors of innovative companies like Q2?

While I can’t answer this question with certainty, I would like to present reasons for businesses and employees alike to take notice.

Business Advantages in Hiring Women

1.  Improvement of complex decision-making: Diversity of all kinds increases the chances that complex decisions will be made correctly. Certainly those of us working in STEM fields face a number of complex decisions every day.

2.  Competitive talent: To remain competitive with other businesses in these fields, and for the U.S. to remain a viable member of the global economy, we must support the caliber of employees in STEM roles. An obvious and largely untapped talent pool is young women, who in 2013 were 21 percent more likely than men to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and account for almost half of all students in MBA and MD programs.

3.  Greater innovation: Different points of view generate fresh ideas—that’s just common sense. And isn’t innovation what technology is all about? It’s worthwhile to note that few women contributed to the first design of the airbag, resulting in airbags that were well-suited to protect men’s bodies, but failed to adequately protect women and children.

4.  Stronger market strategies: It may be old news that, with their increased purchasing power, women are responsible for the majority of household buys. But this applies to technology consumption as well. A study performed by OgilvyAction showed that women significantly outpaced men in their usage of mobile apps related to health, entertainment, lifestyle, social networking and gaming. A fair representation of women in technology companies could help us identify with and better serve this growing consumer base.

5.  Profitability: Last, but certainly not least, companies with the highest representation of women in senior management delivered 53 percent higher return on equity and 42 percent higher return on sales than those with the lowest numbers of female senior managers. That kind of difference in the bottom line is difficult to ignore.

Both men and women can bring awareness to this growing need of women in the workforce, not just STEM fields. Here are ways in which you can make a difference in your industry.

How to Make a Difference

1. Share knowledge of job openings with a smart woman in your network.

2. Offer to review a friend’s resume.

3. Encourage female coworkers to attend empowering seminars with you.

4. Suggest that experienced female employees adopt younger female mentees.

5. Expose these formerly unconventional fields to your daughter, niece, or other young women in your family at early ages.

It is up to us to understand the need for women in STEM fields. Acknowledging your power to incite change in these areas could alter the future of our businesses.

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