Archive for November, 2010

Gender Diversity in STEM. Why Bother?

How does gender diversity benefit STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)?

A key goal in STEM education is “broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens–women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities,” according to the National Science Foundation. Similarly, President Obama’s recently launched “Educate to Innovate” campaign cites, “expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls” as one of its three goals.

Why is gender diversity in STEM important? First, why do YOU think it’s important?, see our quick poll below with a $600 raffle prize (registration for a WomenTech Training).  I’d love your opinion.

Here’s why Donna Milgram thinks gender diversity in STEM is important.

The absence of women from STEM education and careers affects more than the women; it is a missed opportunity for those fields. Women bring a different perspective that shapes and influences STEM disciplines. Research shows that women — as a group — have a greater interest than males in how technology will be applied, in particular to help others, and women naturally have a greater understanding of what is important to and appeals to women.

Here are just two examples of how women in STEM enhance the field from a substantive perspective.

  • Dr. Bernadine Healy, the first woman to direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH), established a policy whereby the NIH would only fund clinical trials that included both men and women when the condition being studied affected both genders. Prior to this requirement, many NIH clinical trials did not include women, and subsequently research recommendations did not take into account the differing biology of women and men, and in some cases made recommendations harmful to women.
  • The Zimmer® Gender Solutions™ Knee, which was originally conceived of by a woman engineer. Nearly two-thirds of knee replacements in the U.S. are done on women; however, until the Gender Knee was developed the model for a knee implant was a male knee, which often did not fit the shape and size of women’s anatomy. The Gender Knee is specifically designed to fit the average woman and is a much more successful implant as a result.

Having more women in the picture will not only help women themselves — it will also help society benefit from their expertise — whether it’s ensuring women are included in clinical trials or developing a prosthetic knee that works better for women. We are all enriched when women fully contribute to the advancement of science and technology.


Take our One Question Poll – Why Women in STEM is Important?.

CalWomenTech Secrets to Recruiting & Retaining Women in STEM

Team members from CCSF and EVC CalWomenTech Sites receive WomenTech Hall of Fame Awards
Team members from CCSF and EVC CalWomenTech Sites receive WomenTech Hall of Fame Awards

This October, IWITTS held the third Project Partner Meeting of our NSF-funded CalWomenTech Project and two of the community colleges present were inducted into our WomenTech Hall of Fame!

Read on to find out how they achieved success …

Secrets to Recruitment Success — Computer Networking Program
The Computer Networking and Information Technology (CNIT) Program at City College of San Francisco went from a female enrollment baseline of 10.3% in 2007 to 36.1% in spring 2010.

Key strategies included:

  • Obtaining the buy-in of all CNIT instructors, counselors and career staff.
  • Putting up recruitment posters and tear-off flyers with female role models all over campus. A survey of enrolled female students showed these were the top two ways they learned about the program.
  • CCSF has a very large counseling staff with over 100 counselors. The Project key leaders made a presentation to all of the counselors at their monthly meeting, providing them with recruitment brochures and posters so they could assist with recruitment efforts. In fact, distribution of recruitment materials by counselors was written into CCSF’s annual strategic plan to ensure it has become a regular practice.
  • Learn more about CCSF in this case study.

Re-create CCSF’s success at your school with Ready-to-Use Recruitment Tools:

  • Our Outreach Kit based on the CalWomenTech Project, includes easy-to-customize recruitment materials.
  • Our Poster Sets feature female role-models working in seven different engineering or trades occupations.

Secrets to Retention Success – Automotive Technology Program
Evergreen Valley College of San Jose had a baseline retention rate for female students of 57.6% in 2008 that went to 100% for two nonconsecutive semesters. In the aggregate, the average female completion rate went to 88.3%, an increase of 30.7%. Male completion baseline was 61% – also low – and now the aggregate is 86.4%, an increase of 25.6%.

Key strategies included:

  • A change in culture from it’s okay if some students are “weeded out” to a more supportive environment where instructors focus their efforts on every student’s success.
  • Bringing female role models into the classroom to make presentations.
  • Teaching to female learning style as well as male.
  • Rewarding successful female completers with a “CalWomenTech Tool Scholarship” — an engraved professional wrench with a lifetime guarantee.
  • Visible support of female auto tech students in the classroom, where female and male students can view women in auto technology banners and posters in the classroom.
  • Learn more about EVC in this case study.

Here’s how you can achieve Evergreen’s success, too:

  • Attend our upcoming WomenTech training for educators in San Francisco to learn more about female learning style – sign up now for early-bird savings!