Recruiting Women for STEM: Tying One Hand Behind Our Backs
At Harris Search Associates we have long considered it to be both right and smart to go all-out to identify women candidates for vice presidencies, deanships and other senior positions. This is especially the case in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM, fields long populated primarily by men.
A recent report from the Association for Women in Science (AWIS; see http://www.awis.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=630&utm_source=AWIS+in+Action%21+September+2012&utm_campaign=Awis+in+Action+September+2012&utm_medium=email), however, serves to remind us that identifying and recruiting women candidates, while important, is only part of the challenge of increasing the numbers and presence of women in STEM positions and careers.
Acknowledging that business and industry may do more to foster programs that prepare more women (and men) for STEM-related jobs, AWIS nevertheless notes that such efforts still leave “out much of the potential workforce that also needs access to quality, affordable childcare.”
This is an issue for women at all levels of the workforce with children who don’t have a stay at home husband to care for them. It seems like such a small problem. Yet until we, as a nation, find a way to address this problem, the wage gap will persist, the cycles of intergenerational poverty will continue to be a limiting factor for economic security, and women will continue to lag behind men in advancing through the ladders of corporate and academic success.
Even with relatively high unemployment, many companies and organizations continue to struggle to fill positions that require the knowledge and skills of STEM fields. By not reducing the barriers that can enable more women to take on those jobs, we may well be tying at least one behind our back.