Women comprise only 17% of the fields of computer science and engineering, a significant decrease from 37% in 1984. The dramatic decrease in representation shows a dire need for women in these fields to increase U.S. economic competitiveness, technology, and engineering innovation. Many believe that one of the underlying causes of having low numbers women in STEM fields is the lack of women mentorship. Some higher education institutions have taken notice and are taking specific steps to foster more mentorship and support for women going into these careers.
Beth Jacob of Target Technology Solutions described how, “when we mentor and inspire young people through schools and community organizations that support STEM education, we’re helping to create future leaders for our own organizations.”
A Catalyst study found that women are much more likely to develop other talent than men. In fact, 73 percent of women developing talent are mentoring other women. This pattern must be replicated in the STEM field starting at the very early stages of young women’s higher education through mentorship and guidance.
NerdScholar rounded up the following programs that cultivate mentorship for women looking to go into the STEM fields:
Best Mentoring STEM programs for women
Brigham Young University
At Brigham Young University women looking to get in to the STEM field can join the Women in STEM Society, which provides a pathway to get mentored directly by professional women and BYU-Idaho female faculty. This fosters community and inspires women to pursue their passions in science, technology, engineering, and math.
They are able to get involved in service projects, gatherings, study groups, and other exciting opportunities to grow their careers in STEM.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Young female students at UMass Amherst can take advantage of the CNS Women in Science Initiative. Its main goal is go develop a coordinated set of resources and programs to encourage women’s success in the STEM field.
UMass Amherst is already home to many mentoring programs but they still want to help teach their students how to take advantage of them. For example, they hold mixers with panelists talking about the pros/cons to joining a mentor group. They want to make sure that if young women decide to get mentored they know how it can benefit them and how it can help them expand their endeavors.
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
The Women in EMS Mentor Center at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville offers young female students the opportunity to pair up with an older experienced Junior or Senior college student in the College of Engineering. These peer-mentors provide personal support, academic advice, and career development knowledge that have created a strong sense of community.
Additionally, the center is place for young ladies to come together to study and get access to high technology equipment. They can find books and resources on leadership and business, interviewing, and networking.
University of Texas at El Paso
The Collaborative Faculty Mentoring Program at the University of Texas at El Paso is a great program that connects its students with professional mentors. Each month they have a luncheon with mentors to talk about how to increase access to the STEM field and work covering the grant writing process in academia and how to reach strategic career goals more generally. As part of its overall offerings, the CFMP also offers brown bags and work shops specific to women.
The University of Arizona
The University of Arizona’s Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) program is part of the Women’s studies and Department and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women and provides academic and career preparation for college students including mentorship, internships, and scholarships. Their main mission is to motivate students to enter careers in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.
The program has reached approximately 350 University of Arizona students via their seminar course in STEM careers, the WISE Wing Living & Learning Residential Community, and the WISE ASUA Club. All girls in the programs receive academic support and leadership support.
The Career Equity Resource Center (CERC) at Rutgers University ‘s mission is to increase access to high-skill, high demand careers for students in underserved populations including women and those from low-socio economic backgrounds. A program of the Center for Women and Work, it provides female students interested in more technical and STEM careers the resources to make job connections.
Unlike many other career resource programs, the CERC looks at building long lasting connections with their students instead of doing one-time training, which do not yield as impactful results.
Community Colleges with STEM Programs for Women
Wake Tech Community College
At Wake Tech Community College the Women in STEM (WiSTEM) Learning community provides social support for women who are considering a STEM major. Based on research showing that women bring specific strengths and talents to the field, they offer women-only classes where they encourage a peer-to-peer learning environment. Cheryl Keeton, Dean of of Mathematics and Science, said “what drives us in this program is knowing that just encouraging women is not enough. We need to give them the support that helps them to believe they can get through the courses and be successful in the STEM fields.
This fall of 2013, they will hold their first STEM learning community open to women students getting associate degrees in science or engineering.
Delaware County Community College
For women in STEM at Delaware County Community College, they enjoy having a strong support network that encourages them to learn more about the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Because it is on of the fastest growing, highest paying job sectors in the U.S., students can get their associate’s degrees here and go on to complete their bachelor’s degrees at leading 4-year universities.