Are we raising a class of mediocre students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)? Tough question to ask and answer. Although my children are all grown, personally I am glad I do not have to worry about getting them back-to-school during this time of COVID-19.

I know a lot of people, including friends and colleagues, are struggling with the topic as the Fall school year fast approaches. This is a serious conversation and education in this country cannot be taken lightly.

Perhaps that is why the entire country is embroiled in an unprecedented debate right now and it doesn’t seem to be reconciling anytime soon. That is one of the main reasons again we are focusing on STEM on, this month and its relevance to our world as IoT (Internet of Things) professionals.

The worker of the future is so vital to everything we do as innovators. Without offering students a proper STEM education, there’s no doubt in my mind we are failing to do what is necessary to raise up the next generation of IoT innovators.

The U.S. middle schoolers are ranked in the middle of the pack among advanced global economies. The NSB’s (National Science Board’s) State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2020 puts the U.S. at #7 out of 11 countries and economies. Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan make up the top three.

One of the most powerful points we make in this month’s feature is that U.S. STEM education is “mediocre and stagnant” when compared to other advanced economies in the world.

If we look even further and examine women in STEM we will see a disproportionately low number of women in STEM careers, which is similarly problematic for the U.S. economy and the future of the IoT.

The NSB’s latest data suggests that although women account for just over half of the college-educated workforce in the U.S., women account for less than 30% of employment in science and engineering careers.

The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) statistics also say less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. This reveals there’s a gender gap in STEM fields on a global scale.

Why is this? If we look at some data from the World Economic Forum, it may provide some insight. The World Economic Forum suggests only 3% of students in ICT (Information and Communications Technology) courses globally are female. Of that, only 5% of students in math and stats courses globally are women, and only 8% of students in engineering, manufacturing, and construction courses globally are women.

These are really low percentages, and I think that’s why we need to talk about STEM education and how we as an industry and a nation can encourage more young women to start developing an interest in science and technology.

Every year, Connected World highlights women in technology with our annual Women of Technology/IoT Awards. I started this awards program many years ago because I saw that one way to bridge the STEM gender gap is to make sure young girls and young women have role models in STEM careers.

Almost a decade later we have had the pleasure to highlight hundreds of incredible women in IoT and technology leadership positions throughout the years. As a result, we’ve helped create many mentorship opportunities and fostered relationships among women who need support from other women who work in male-dominated worlds like IoT and many vertical markets.

During our research, we found a horrible graphic that shouldn’t be repeated, but like most horrible things I am going to repeat it in the hopes that this organization gets rid of the image. This stat shows the glaring issue contributing to gender inequality in STEM careers like technology and the IoT can be summed up as “the leaky pipeline.”

Honestly, this UNESCO statistic is just one I can’t unsee. It showed a leaking pipe, and it made the point that a whole lot of women are “leaking” out of the system when they pass the education stage and get to the career stage. This particular—horrible choice of words and graphic—depicted percentages of women in research roles, go from 53% of bachelor’s and master’s graduates being female and 43% of PhD graduates being female to just 28% of researchers being female.

Clearly, a lot of women, in UNESCO’s opinion, “leaked” out of the pipeline between school and career. And this is where we as an industry need to talk about why women don’t make it into and/or stay in STEM careers.

Is it bias in hiring? Is it the glass ceiling that keeps women from advancing in their careers? Is it unequal compensation for equal work? Is it a difficulty balancing work and home life? Whatever it is, we can do better. We are smarter, stronger, and we are innovators. Need I say anything else? The fact remains we keep saying the same things over and over and we just aren’t doing enough together… Perhaps that is the operative word here: Together. We don’t have to make a choice, we just have to work together to make it happen.

I have had the distinct honor to talk with hundreds of brilliant women within the technology space. I have heard who has motivated them and who has been the backend of the donkey .ss too!

I know about the rise within the tech space to leadership roles and the hardships they faced, often struggling against a glass ceiling that seems impenetrable fighting equal wages or against “the man.”— (To this day, I think my grown children have never understood the man and would just as well like to give him a good kick in his pants for holding women back).

Some women have had to fight against stereotypes, bias, harassment, bullies, and to their worth ironically at the most prestigious tech companies, you would quickly love to hate.

I would guess I have heard even more wonderful stories than most. All of these women often fight for a work/life balance that all employees—men and women—want, need, and deserve and that is why STEM is so vital today.

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