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4 Ways You Can Help Grow Female Representation in STEM Organizations

By Irene Lam, VP, Product Development, Johnson Controls, and Melissa Jean, Product Marketing Specialist, Johnson Controls

Last year, women made strides in the professional world. We showed that we have a strong collective voice that can create palpable change across the nation. That momentum will no doubt continue in 2019, and will hopefully extend into previously male-dominated spaces, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Businesses in the STEM sphere are in need of greater female representation to succeed in this modern era.

Half of college graduates are female, but only 29 percent of them graduate with degrees in STEM fields, according to the National Science Foundation.  Of that already small number, Catalyst found that half of women globally tend to leave STEM industries over the course of their careers, typically 10 years into their work. Perhaps one of the reasons behind the exodus is the fact that women in STEM industries on average earn 79% of men’s annual salaries.

At Johnson Controls, we are working on multiple aspects to increase, attract and retain female talent with these key four initiatives:

1. Inspire young women to take an interest in STEM.

If you are in a technical field, start an annual event that involves bringing girls on-site to interact with technology and build excitement. We sponsor Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day, where children, ages 6 to 18, are invited to learn about our work; for many of our young ladies, we have found that this is their first time engaging with technical equipment. We also have internships and entry-level positions available across the spectrum for recent college graduates to start their career in STEM.

2. Encourage females to pursue STEM careers.
Start a program that allows high school students to engage in technical fields in a supportive environment. Our Fire Suppression team in Cranston has participated in their third Women in Technology program, an annual, semester-long immersion experience for talented local high school girls interested in engineering work at our facility on an active project with experienced engineers, exposing them to technology early in their career. At the end of the semester, there is a “graduation ceremony,” where participants present their projects and accomplishments to our site leaders, their parents and their high school teachers. 

3. Provide women in STEM with career-enhancing opportunities.
Being a member of a national organization can significantly help elevate women in a male-dominated field. We are closely involved with the Society of Women Engineers to provide an outlet to our female employees to collaborate and come together with professionals across industries. This allows our ladies to engage with peers and helps us recruit early talent recently graduating from university.

4. Emphasize female empowerment for those looking to move up the corporate ladder.
A mentorship program, such as Johnson Controls’ Women’s Growth Network, pairs new employees with experienced coworkers to help them navigate the corporate environment. It also provides an internal support group where any member can ask for assistance on personal and professional life events, as well as for network building and making introductions to help move up the corporate ladder.

STEM organizations should embrace this opportunity to grow their business in a diversity-positive manner. As we start the New Year, we typically set at least one if not more resolutions. At Johnson Controls, one goal is to continue contributing to this exciting women’s movement in small, everyday tasks and subtle interactions as well as planning for our annual events. If we learned anything from the movements of 2018, it is that raising each other up is the most powerful action we can take.

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