By Noah Kutz
Current job openings in the workforce suggest that younger generations should start pursuing STEM careers, based on concerns shared during a day-long workshop at Mesa Community College.
As part of the collaborative event, “Girls Get IT,” women from across the Valley gathered at
the Southern and Dobson campus for a day of inspiration and planning to discuss the future of STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—careers and how women can be more effective in pursuing successful roles in the industry.
In association with the Maricopa Information Technology Institute (MITI, or “mighty” as it’s now widely known), MCC and other East Valley institutes hosted high school young women at this event, as well as involving successful tech professionals in advisory roles, to show the opportunities in the STEM world with a goal of sparking an interest in the hearts of these high schoolers.
The young women who attended the event for the first part of the day listened to keynote speakers from the STEM industry, then participated in a hands-on workshop with other women from similar career fields.
Sherry Willman, a 21-year Microsoft veteran and a current part- time professor of practice at ASU, urged the students to pursue jobs in these companies, even if they don’t pertain specifically to STEM. “Look at technology as a career, but there are also other careers within tech organizations that are a good way to go,” she says.
She went on to give an example of the CFO of Microsoft, an extremely successful woman in a tech company who made her career in finance.
Although statistics vary across the country, numerous researchers in recent years have found that approximately 24 percent of jobs in science, technological, engineering and math fields are filled by women.
Nora Reyes, the newly elected senior associate vice president for MCC, says that the pursuit for women to join the STEM community must begin at the earliest levels.
“If we want more women in STEM fields, we can’t just start in the high school levels,” she says. “We have to go even further than that. We have to address middle schoolers, elementary schoolers, even preschoolers.”
Reyes’ background comes from education, and her primary goals are to make sure teachers are able to properly inspire their students from a very young age.
Many teachers, according to Reyes, sometimes have difficulties or phobias with math and science that cause them to inadvertently give their students the same fear of these subjects.
She says, “We need to make sure that we’re empowering those teachers, making sure they don’t have biases against some of these disciplines and careers that they may be passing on to their students, possibly without intentionally doing so.”
MITI ended the day by encouraging these tech professionals to look to hire young women that have the power to adapt to the growing world of technology in the future, and to inspire children with these STEM fields, starting at the earliest ages.
For more information on MITI or MCC visit https://www.maricopa.edu