Jobs that rely on science, technology, engineering and math have long been touted as opportunities for talented women. But only 24 percent of the STEM workforce is female—a statistic companies are trying to improve.

Diversity creates prosperity

“Some studies show diverse teams produce better and more creative products,” says Alison Derbenwick Miller, vice president of Oracle Academy, the tech company’s primary philanthropic education program. “Just having different perspectives in a company is very important to the vitality of the company.”

It’s also important to the bottom line. “Companies that are more diverse actually have stronger revenues, and Fortune 500 companies with at least two or three females on the board of directors outperform companies that don’t,” adds Julie Kantor, vice president and chief partnership officer at STEMconnector and Million Women Mentors.

Investing in education

This also means companies have a vested interest in promoting STEM education among girls. “Fishing in the largest pool for talent is incredibly important,” contends Anne Hill, chief human resources officer at Avery Dennison, a company that relies on employees’ technical skills to produce labeling and packaging materials. “We need as many women as we can to come into the field and get educated.”

According to Kantor, girls begin disengaging from science and math in the fifth or sixth grade, making it an ideal time for intervention.

"Studies show diverse teams produce better and more creative products. Just having different perspectives in a company is very important to the vitality of the company.”

“You can really make a difference for girls who are deciding: ‘Is it going to be okay for me to be seen in class as smart and liking math and science, or am I going to succumb to peer pressure and act like I don’t,’” explains Carol Fletcher, associate director of Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching at The University of Texas at Austin.

“Seeing role models is critical for all of us, certainly for young girls at an impressionable age,” Hill adds. “Seeing people doing things and undertaking careers that they may never have otherwise thought of is really key.”

Ultimately, workplace diversity is an issue of fairness. “If we can look at access to STEM education as not just an education issue but as an equity issue,” Derbenwick Miller says, “I think we will produce a far better pipeline of students of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds and genders who are interested and engaged in technology, science and all these fields that really drive the global economy forward.”