Jobs that require science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are set to outpace all others within the next ten years. And, with more than 3 million STEM jobs currently unfilled, it is clear that we have a problem. US Students rank 23rd in science and math globally. In fact, only 17 percent of U.S. 12th graders are both proficient in math and interested in majoring in a STEM field in college. For students in underserved communities, and women, the gap is even wider. In order to be competitive in the future, today’s kids need to be able to understand and master technology. This is a critical issue, and one that we are passionate about. A workforce that is fluent in STEM will help secure a more stable future for our students.
The gender gap for women in technology is well known. Today women hold less than 25% of our country's STEM jobs. For women, their career goals are set at an early age. Gender stereotypes start young – only 14% of teenage girls want to become a scientist. However, when they are shown what engineers do, 76% of girls get interested in engineering. 66% of 4th grade girls reported they like science and math, but by college only 18% of engineering majors are female. My wife is a tenured professor of electrical engineering and this is a pattern with which she is all too familiar. Clearly there is a chance in early childhood education to inspire young girls to be interested in STEM subjects and careers.
Verizon is committed to helping parents and teachers inspire more girls to get involved with STEM and through the Verizon Foundation, the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program is helping to bring STEM subjects to local communities. Through mentorship and other resources, Verizon Ventures is proud to support programs like Girls Who Code and Verizon Mobile Learning Academy.
One great initiative is the Verizon innovative app challenge. The goal of the Challenge is to increase student interest and knowledge in STEM subjects and mobile technology through an engaging and empowering learning experience. High school and middle school students compete to earn $20,000 grants. Working with a faculty advisor, teams of 5 - 7 students develop an original concept for a mobile app that incorporates STEM principles and content and addresses a real need or problem in their school or community. While designing their apps, students consider marketplace need, usefulness, audience and viability and align their app concept with one of three focus areas: Education, Healthcare or Sustainability. The Verizon Innovative App Challenge offers a unique opportunity for students around the country to participate in a rich, project-based learning experience that fosters teamwork and encourages them to explore new ideas and consider future careers in STEM.
Watching our 9 year-old daughter spend hours on sites like codecademy and Khan Academy learning to code and listening as she explains all the reasons why she wants a circuits set for a holiday gift, fills me with hope that STEM can ignite the imagination of an entire generation of girls. It is critical that this early interest is supported and encouraged throughout their educations and that girls are given more opportunities to connect with like-minded peers and further develop their skills. That’s why I’m so proud of the efforts of Verizon and the Verizon Foundation and believe that we can make a difference.