What The Future Holds For Girls In STEM Careers
August 27, 2013 1:32 p.m.
Kristie Grover, Executive Director, BIOCOM Institute
Nancy Taylor, Executive Director, San Diego Science Alliance
Related Story: What The Future Holds For Girls In STEM Careers
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Coming up, a preview of a public panel discussion tonight on encouraging girls to pursue careers in science and technology. It is 12:23. You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition. The technology industries in the US are still dominated by men. There have been lots of theories about why that is. Former Harvard president Larry Summers who may still be nominated to chair the Federal Reserve once speculated that the disparity might be because girls just don't have as much aptitude for science and math. Although some may still share that opinion the evidence is to the contrary and now women who are in technology careers are working to get more girls interested in taking high-level math and science courses. The fields we are talking about is called STEM, short for science technology engineering and mathematics. There is a panel discussion in North Park tonight about efforts to get more women in STEM careers and I'd like to introduce my guests, Kristi Grover is executive director San Diego's Bio com Institute. Kristie, welcome to the program.
KRISTIE GLOVER: Thanks for having me here today, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Nancy Taylor is here with us is executive director of the San Diego science alliance. Hi, Nancy.
NANCY TAYLOR: Hi Maureen and Kristie:
KRISTIE GLOVER: Hi, Nancy.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now let me start with you, Kristie. Can you give us maybe a ballpark of the men to women ratio in the tech fields. Is it 2 to 1, less than 10% what is an idea?
KRISTIE GLOVER: So it's about 25% female in STEM disciplines and working in particular the life science industry but we are seeing those numbers climb due to our reach and women reaching and mentors talking about the possibility of STEM careers to young women.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Kristie what are the reasons that people give for fewer women in STEM careers?
KRISTIE GLOVER: One of the things we see as a phenomenon as young girls had about middle school, there is an unintentional bias that goes on where we tended to steer young men into science and technology, but not so much women. When we look at the movement of things like lean in, it really is about women and girls feeling like they can speak up and that they have a voice. People in school raise their hand and say I know that math problem or the science equation. Or whether it is in the workforce, actively doing as male counterparts do which is asking for those promotions, asking for those leading deals. So that is what we are trying to encourage.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Nancy do you think schools and educators are not doing enough to promote interest in these STEM fields for girls?
NANCY TAYLOR: Well I think the community at large as well as schools can always do more to work against a lot of factors that seem to result in the numbers that Kristie was just talking about, only 25% of the workforce in the life sciences female and that number actually goes down in engineering and computational sciences. And other fields as well. And so, that in itself is an interesting outcome of public education for example in high school everybody takes a biology class and typically if girls are turned on to science by high school, the biological sciences make a great deal of interest for them in their studying about organisms and sustainability and natural systems that have an an inherent approach for us to care about it. But in reality, we do need to purge girls to find their success in math and science. One of the factors we know from research is that girls for some reason have a propensity not to be interested in science in the middle school years
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask your opinion on this let me start with you Kristie because this goes right to the heart of what Nancy was talking about and he reported to social science quarterly found that while some schools have girls in STEM classes other schools have an equal number of boys and girls and even more girls than boys in the STEM classes and much of it depends on the kind of jobs that growth see women in their community holding. Kristie, what you think about that?
KRISTIE GLOVER: It's right on target because mentorship is key. And italic across the nation about workforce issues and life sciences and I talk to women about what incurs should you be interested in the life science field? We hear about mentors, we hear women being role models to our young girls and the ability to see dad in real world applications of science, that's all it takes for a young girl to get interested. So things like the San Diego Festival science and engineering where a young girl can go and do hands-on activities to figure out that there are massive careers and one other thing to point out is that it's not just STEM disciplines in life sciences there's a whole host of jobs for women within the life science industry that work for women as well.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Nancy the idea that if girls in a certain dignity don't see women, their mothers, their events, their mother's friends holding jobs in high-tech fields that perhaps they think that it's not for them?
NANCY TAYLOR: That is a great conclusion because that can be big, so we work hard as a middle school level to help girls develop an interest in science. They can see relevant context for themselves. What is it that girls care about? They might care about a breed of color in a particular media design that they're working on it and we can help them explore the computational sciences, we can provide mentors as Kristie said of women in science and engineering that they may not otherwise have access to.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Nancy, what kind of social barriers can stop young girls from taking a higher level math or engineering class? Is there the fear of maybe not being popular something like that that would stop a young girl from going onto a high level math or engineering course question
NANCY TAYLOR: In the early adolescent years for a girl there are certainly some amount of timidity and social mores that women are working against. We also see the same happening in university settings where young women in academics are often not sought after as leaders and perceive themselves as not a team member, so by engaging girls early on with actual real world experiences, how are these women who are in control and were working on positive solutions for disease and engineering solutions for a better world, those are the kinds of people that help girls spark interest and see themselves in a STEM career.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Kristie how did you get interested in the science and technology career?
KRISTIE GLOVER: Well another factor here is I was one of those that was told I would never be good in math and science, yes. However I did have a mentor in my father who was a life science leader here in San Diego. And when he would come home he ended his career as a VC investing in technologies that would change the world, that's all it took for me to see how therapies and things in the life science industry would change that I was lucky to have that mentor and my dad to say I'm going to buck tradition even though I was told I would be good and that lit a fire underneath me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Did you ever feel you would get into this because you were told that it never happened because you are a woman?
KRISTIE GLOVER: If you know me down the sparks my fire harder but when you look to other folks implement yes that was a barrier until someone came along and said you can do it and they saw firsthand that they could do it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you both Nancy, let me start with you. How are women faring right here in San Diego in the science and tech industry?
NANCY TAYLOR: Actually Kristie may be the one to answer the question but let me say that we are preparing STEM capable graduates today in our schools and I know that they must be faring, women in careers must be faring well, because we have access through a program called better education for women in science and engineering that we have access to a great number of women professionals who volunteer their time to help us. They are satisfied with their careers and they are ready to invest their time and energy for the next generation.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Kristie?
KRISTIE GLOVER: One thing I'd like to mention in life science careers, STEM discipline you see the parity of pay between women and men is very similar. So that something like to point out front.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what kind of salaries can you make in those professions, in a life science profession what is an average?
KRISTIE GLOVER: The average salary is about $80,000 a year. We are talking about good salaries, great benefits but at the end of the day you are helping to solve disease, cure cancer, so there is that passion element that fits into the industry as well. But as I mentioned I get to talk across the nation and I am so proud of our life science industry because they really do reach out to women and empower women to do well in our community here. We see on the industry and, women leaders like Dr. Gayle not then, his general is out there she recently spoke at women in bio about her career path and on the service plus an electric Eloise who has grown which is a program that promotes women within Barney and Bernie. And men as well. We had about collaborative mentorship program where we had a woman veteran and one of the serial CEOs Larry Stambaugh actually mentored this woman who is coming out of the Marine Corps, and she now has life science employment due to his mentorship. So we have examples all around us of how mentorship and the life science community is reaching out to make sure women are promoted amongst the ranks and life science here in San Diego.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And yet on the other side I found an article reprinted in Huffington Post that showed how tech companies job postings present gender bias, actually sing they were looking for an IT guy, or a talented guy to fill a certain position. Does that kind of gender bias still exist in the industry, Kristie?
KRISTIE GLOVER: It may, but at the same time, QUALCOMM, one of the biggest tech leaders have something called Q-Wise where it is a whole support network within QUALCOMM to promote women and have the organization within an organization and tech industry so we see programs like that which counterbalance an article like you just mentioned.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Nancy we've heard a lot about the introduction of California schools about the core curriculum, does that address some of the gender issues that still may be surrounding STEM subjects?
NANCY TAYLOR: I think the common core curriculum has an emphasis on writing, and argumentation using claims and evidence. And in the discipline of science and technology and mathematics. Those are important skills. In the next-generation science standards, similarly there's a very robust opportunity where teachers are encouraged to engage students in teamwork and investigations and science and engineering practices. So we are not going to work in isolation anymore. Girls are certainly at the table doing the same work as boys. We do see as an anomaly in some schools, some gender specific science and math classes that seem to be having some very successful outcomes for young women.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Kristie, what are people going to experience at the panel discussion tomorrow night?
KRISTIE GLOVER: Well there is a new way to get girls interested in STEM disciplines, which is adding the A to STEM which means steam really found that integrating art is a great way to interest groups. So the panel tomorrow is going to be with thought leaders from QUALCOMM, the life science industry, wonderful Congresswoman Susan Davis who was just in here, and artists from San Francisco and this team effort in San Diego is led by KDRPR and UCSD extension. And assist wonderful way for us to talk about the exciting ways and using our to get kids, women, girls were excited about STEM disciplines.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay I want to let everyone know the panel engaging girls in STEM careers takes place from 530to 8 PM tomorrow at the YMCA on Mead Avenue in North Park. And I've been speaking with Kristi Grover, she's executive director of the Bio com Institute and Nancy Taylor, executive director of San Diego science alliance. Thank you both very very much.
KRISTIE GLOVER: Thank you
NANCY TAYLOR: Thank you