A brighter future for STEM education is possible

By Trisa Thompson

You may be familiar with the bleak statistics – only 16 percent of American students graduating from high school are proficient in math and interested in STEM-related careers. Women continue to fall behind men in both STEM education and hiring – a trend that’s been linked to an early loss of interest among girls. However, the number of STEM-related jobs is staggering – with 26 million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related jobs in the U.S. today.

As the Chief Responsibility Officer at Dell, I remain hopeful that more girls will get involved in STEM-related roles and that we can help – both girls and boys. We have good reason to anticipate a brighter future for STEM-related careers, and we are working as a company to improve gender equality in general in the workplace.

At the corporate level, more businesses are involving men in their push to improve gender equality and diversity, according to the Wall Street Journal. Dell is the first IT company to enlist a number of its leaders in Men Advocating Real Change (MARC), an initiative for men committed to achieving gender equality in the workplace.

And for youth, a growing number of organizations are working hard to spark a passion for STEM and digital literacy.

One such organization is Girlstart. Founded in Austin, Texas in 1997, Girlstart’s mission is to empower girls in STEM. Everything about Girlstart’s headquarters screams girl power –from the neon walls, computers stickered in flowers, even a specially compiled “girl-power” playlist to get the mood just right.

Tamara Hudgins, Executive Director of Girlstart, describes it best, “Girlstart is designed for every girl. We’re not for the geeks. Our programs are designed for all girls especially those who don’t know they love STEM yet.”

The formula is working. Eighty percent of the girls involved in Girlstart’s Project IT Girls program go on to a four year university and 80 percent pursue STEM majors. And best of all, Hudgins is seeing Girlstart’s demand continue to grow.  “Our summer program had double-digit waitlists every week. We’ve got to expand!”

For Doug Hillary, Vice President of Global Sales Operations, Board Member for Girlstart and father of three girls, this topic is personal.

“Throughout my career at Dell, I’ve worked for some fantastic female leaders,” Hillary said. “Our industry needs to continue to invest and support STEM programs like Girlstart to develop future talent and increase diversity in our workforce. Engaging girls early will create even more opportunities for future female leaders.”

Dell works directly with non-profit organizations around the world to close the learning gap, gain 21st-century skills, and give young people the power to discover better possibilities. As part of our Dell Youth Learning initiative, Dell provides grant funding, as well as our latest technology to over 60 non-profits, including Girlstart.

In this video, Girlstart organizers and youth talk about how Girlstart has broadened young girls’ perspectives on technology and its positive role in their lives.

Dell recently announced it is helping organizations like Girlstart achieve their goal by issuing 2015 Youth Learning grants to 27 U.S. programs and 35 international partners that it feels are leading the charge to engage underserved populations with the skills they need to succeed in a tech-centric culture and workforce.

Through strategic giving, Dell has helped 1.4 million underserved youth gain access to technology and education, almost half way to our goal of benefiting 3 million by 2020.

To learn about other ways Dell’s Legacy of Good goals are paying off for customers, communities and the planet, visitwww.dell.com/legacyofgoodupdate.

Dell is committed to using technology to improve the lives of young people. Learn more at dell.com/youthlearning

About the Author: Power More