According to the Economics and Statistics Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce, though women comprise 50 percent of the workforce, they account for only 24 percent of the STEM workforce. Furthermore, half of women in STEM careers drop out within the first ten years. For STEM stakeholders, the issue must shift from merely recruitment towards retention.

The power of mentorships

Mentors are a vital to bridging this gap. With STEM mentoring everyone wins. Academic mentors introduce students the infinite possibilities associated with STEM careers and encourage them to persist through their coursework. For career development, mentors provide valuable advice and help women navigate the challenging situations and social pressures that often push women to opt out of STEM careers. 

With the demand for STEM talent at an all-time high, companies are finding that employees who participated in a mentoring program have greater job satisfaction and higher retention rates.

“For STEM stakeholders, the issue must shift from merely recruitment towards retention.

Companies are also embracing the concept of reverse mentoring, the knowledge exchange from a junior employee to one that is more senior. This reciprocal relationship is a powerful one, in which rising female talents can add value to the company through their new perspectives.

Providing advocates

In addition to mentorship, sponsorship is a key element to retaining women in STEM. Sponsors act as advocates when you are not in the room. It is sponsorship that often affords employees their next big opportunity, and mentorship that can then assist them in being successful in those opportunities.

With STEM as an economic equalizer at the core of our innovation and global competitiveness, we can not afford to leave women behind. We must work collaboratively across sectors to inspire the next generation of female STEM leaders, and we must champion diverse, inclusive environments in which female STEM leaders can thrive.