These days, there’s a lot of emphasis on STEM — an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. The skills and knowledge these fields require have become increasingly intertwined with daily life and future success. Which is why, according to Meera Kaul, more women need to enter these areas.
“Everything around you is moving towards technology, science and engineering,” says Kaul, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who has incubated, financed and promoted technology-enabled ventures throughout the world. “If women do not take a strong lead in being technical themselves, we will lose out on a lot of opportunity in the world going forward.”
To wit, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that by 2018 the U.S. will have more than 1.2 million job openings in STEM fields. Not only that, but STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. Indeed, a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce finds that nine out of ten of the highest-paying college majors are in engineering fields.
Yet, while women make up 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, they account for just 24 percent of workers in STEM. And while the gender playing field has leveled in biology and medical sciences, women still lag behind in other STEM fields, making up just 26 percent of computer and math positions, for example.
That’s why Kaul has launched The Meera Kaul Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps empower women across the globe and encourage them to enter into STEM fields. By investing in women and women-driven programs, the foundation creates opportunities to help women unlock the areas of their expertise, achieve stability in their careers and grow both personally and professionally.
We know that taking the plunge into a still very male-dominated field can be daunting for a lot of women. So, we’ve asked Kaul for her advice.
Don’t get in your own head
“I don’t think there is a bigger barrier to entry than what is in our minds,” Kaul says, citing many women’s insecurities about entering science and math fields. “Society has been gender stereotyping for centuries, and that has lead us to believe that there are some jobs that are made for women and there are some jobs that are not made for women,” she continues. “That’s highly untrue, because there is nothing that will stop ourselves from being very successful at engineering fields. If they are able to overcome this barrier, I don’t think there is another barrier to overcome.”
“The basic problem for women everywhere is economic marginalization,” Kaul says. “I believe that women have to have confidence in themselves, need to be able to negotiate better and need to step forward and be equal partners in the world economy; a women educated in STEM has a better chance of doing [all] that than a women who is not.”