Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations are vital for America's innovative capacity and global competitiveness. Not surprisingly, these essential roles account for nearly 7 percent of all US occupations. Yet, as necessary as these roles are to the economy, in 2021, the US Census Bureau found that women represent only 27 percent of (STEM) workers even though they make up almost 50 percent of the US workforce. Clearly, women are still underrepresented in this male-dominated space.
Why does this leadership gap in STEM matter? Consider the value of women’s contributions to STEM.
The Historical Significance of Women in STEMTo affirm that the future of STEM is female, let’s look back at how pivotal women’s roles have been in these fields. Take Mary W. Jackson, NASA’s first African American female engineer. She became an aeronautical engineer in 1958. She and two other Black women, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, completed the NASA calculations necessary for several space missions, including the 1969 moon landing. Their work was featured in the movie Hidden Figures. Recognizing the need for more women in STEM, Mary led programs to influence recruiting and promotions for women in NASA's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers.
Despite stellar innovations and monumental achievements by women engineers and others in these fields, a significant leadership gap in STEM still exists. It’s important that organizations today promote gender representation—especially in leadership positions.
Bridging the Leadership Gap in STEMAcross STEM occupations, representation of women aged 25 and older varies widely. Consider the following percentages of female-held jobs by occupation:
- Health-related: 11 percent
- Life sciences: 6 percent
- Math: 9 percent
- Physical sciences: 6 percent
- Technology: 7 percent
- Engineering: 5 percent
While women hold most jobs in health-related fields, the April 2021 Pew Research article, “STEM Jobs See Uneven Progress in Increasing Gender, Racial and Ethnic Diversity,” states that women remain underrepresented in all other STEM occupations. Most of these other fields continue to be male-dominated globally—particularly in leadership.
Last year, the Credit Suisse Research Institute published a report showing that while diversity continues to improve globally, on average, women made up only 17 percent of management for all senior roles in the information technology sector as of 2021. The stats are even worse for women of color. Maryville University shows that women of color occupy only 5 percent of all positions in science and engineering in the article “Women of Color in STEM.”
Increasing Women in STEM Will Impact the FutureBetween 2021 and 2031, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections show job growth in STEM fields outpacing non-stem fields. To bridge the leadership gap, companies must seek out, promote, and support more female leaders to meet demand. Companies without clear development and promotion paths for women in STEM fields risk missing out on critical talent. Women need more options for leadership development to support their advancement effectively, and coaching offers a proven solution.
Leadership coaching for women, specifically 1:1 leadership coaching, can help prepare women for future roles as leaders. Incorporating personalized leadership coaching into your female-oriented talent strategy can build and expand the leadership capabilities that are critical for them to lead themselves, lead others, and lead for change in today’s disruptive, change-prone work and marketplace environments.
Personalized leadership coaching can prepare current generations of women by addressing challenges unique to women in a safe environment while simultaneously expanding their capacity to create business impact. Such development can open doors for future generations of women. It will create change-ready leaders, role models, and mentors, as well as garner significant wins for companies as barriers diminish for women entering STEM occupations.
Why Is Leadership Coaching for Women a Sound Strategy?Leadership coaching is uniquely positioned to support women with personalized development regardless of their level, location, or function. Further, coaching doesn’t just benefit women’s career advancement. While it offers myriad outcomes for women to become more innovative and vested in their career paths, it also generates the following organizational outcomes:
- An expanded bench of capable leaders across all levels for succession planning
- Accelerated growth among leaders in your internal talent pipeline
- Achievement of broader strategic abilities, leading to new and optimized solutions
- Improved executive presence and emotional intelligence when leading teams
- Enhanced leadership teams that function more effectively to improve projected business outcomes
Women can play an important role in filling leadership gaps in the STEM talent pool. Companies will need to invest more in women at all levels to fill these gaps and keep up with the demand for top female talent via recruiting, development, engagement, and retention.