President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
As the mother of a fiercely confident tween daughter, I have a hard time believing anything can hold this generation of girls back — certainly not their own capabilities. And as the president of the world’s largest business organization, I see women ascend to the highest echelons of business leadership and watch them start up new ventures and pioneer new innovations all the time.
Even so, today — as in past generations of equally fierce and capable women — some perceptions still stand between girls and their potential.
Girls in STEM
Nowhere is this more evident than in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, where women make up less than 25 percent of the workforce. The women who do work in STEM are too often considered tokens or anomalies, and very few hold high-visibility positions.
What does this tell our daughters? That STEM is for boys. Can it be a coincidence that 4.7 percent of young girls see themselves in engineering or computing careers, compared with 18 percent of young boys? As long as this stereotype remains pervasive, so too will these fields be dominated by men.
Light a spark
Breaking this perception and putting the talent and ideas of women — half our nation’s workforce and brainpower — to work in the STEM fields is an economic imperative. Almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require some STEM education. Between 2014 and 2024, our economy is expected to add about 1 million STEM jobs — significantly outpacing job growth in all other fields. Moreover, diverse perspectives lead to world-changing innovations.
The United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation has launched #LightaSpark, a new campaign to empower and inspire girls to consider careers in STEM. We are shining a spotlight on the women who are forces to be reckoned with in R&D, tech entrepreneurship, engineering, design, and data. We are encouraging women in STEM to share their stories of perseverance and achievement and help young girls imagine — and pursue — bright futures in these crucial fields.
These role models can help our daughters ignite their curiosity, summon their courage, take risks, solve problems — and maybe even change the world. It starts with a spark. Learn more at LightaSpark.org or share your story on social media at #LightaSpark.