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IMG_4697_Anna Thames_Jennifer McNelly.jpgSTEM Gender Inequality – the Workforce Problem and ESCO’s Commitment to be Part of the Solution

by Sarah Heiner | March 7, 2018 

 
Many industries, civic leaders and non-profits have wrestled with the question of how to bring more women into the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce and support career advancement. Most observers agree that education, from entry level to advanced university studies, is the key. We know that the future contributors to ESCO’s STEM expertise are currently sitting in first grade classrooms, middle school science labs and college lectures across the globe.

In January, Pew Research Center released the results of a study on inequalities between male and female employees in STEM jobs. The data showed, “Three groups of women in STEM jobs stand out as more likely to see workplace inequities: women employed in STEM settings where men outnumber women, women working in computer jobs (only some of whom work in the technology industry), and women in STEM who hold postgraduate degrees.”
 
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​At ESCO, we take this challenge personally. Pew’s findings follow decades of concern about how to best promote diversity and inclusion in the STEM workforce. While women today make up only 29% of the science and engineering workforce, we believe the best way that ESCO supports long-term gender equality in the workforce is by making investments in time, resources and skills development of local STEM education at the K-12 and college levels.

As an example, we have recently encouraged our female engineers in Portland to volunteer with organizations like Girls, Inc. to bring science programs into the community. In nearby schools they provide specific support to young learners who show an interest in STEM subjects. At the college level, female students gain technical work experience through ESCO internships with our engineering professionals. Our partnerships with Oregon State University and Portland State University also encourage diverse groups of students to study STEM, while helping to build the talent pipeline of women within our technical communities.

STEM industries must commit to developing gender parity within the workforce. Companies like ESCO must encourage and help women receive the training they need to find and retain employment in these fields, specifically in engineering and computer jobs. The share of women in computer jobs has decreased from 32% in 1990 to 25% in 2016, while the percentage of women in engineering jobs has risen slightly from 12% in 1990 to 14% in 2016. Simply put, a long-term change-of-course is needed.

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​In 2014 we founded the ESCO Women’s Network (EWN) “to facilitate ESCO women coming together in support of our vision and mission.” The EWN seeks not only to provide opportunities for ESCO women to network, connect, and learn, but also to take a more active role in retaining and developing female leaders, while promoting diversity in our workforce. Each EWN event is dedicated to cultivating the career success of our female colleagues through mentorship, leadership development, as well as professional growth and learning.

​ESCO is committed to help create the next-generation workforce by supporting STEM education. This isn’t only a challenge for us. It needs to be a focus of industry, education and public communities. Investing in education is a worthy and long-term solution to ensure that the women of our future have equal access to exciting, meaningful and well-paying careers.