If you keep up with the ever-evolving world of technology, you may have noticed the recent modification of the popular acronym, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into the broader-reaching STEAM (which integrates the Arts into the mix). STEAM education recognizes design as a part of the creative process, and encourages students to build creative solutions to today’s 21st-century problems.
What you also likely know is the fact that on the whole, STEM fields have traditionally been comprised of predominantly more men than women. In fact, as recent as the U.S Census Bureau 2020, women make up 34% of the STEM workkforce.
That’s not to say that women aren’t increasingly drawn to these fields. As STEM-related careers have grown, the overall number of women in these fields has expanded exponentially as well. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that the number of STEM jobs in the United States grew by 14% between 2010–2020, much faster than the national average of 5–8%. And, according to the National Center for Education (NCES), the amount of women who graduated with degrees in STEM increased by nearly 43% between 2009–2016. Women now comprise 44% of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
With that increase, there has been an evolution in the way females traditionally have been viewed in these roles, and it’s a change that’s welcome for women trailblazers in STEM fields, such as University of Arizona Global Campus graduate student Katherine K.
We recently spoke to Katherine — who is currently a senior manager of business applications for a major life sciences corporation — about what drew her into the field, what she’s experienced as a woman in Information Technology (IT), and the changes she’s witnessed over the past 20 years.
Who Should Choose a Career in STEAM?
There are three types of people who are drawn to STEM-related careers, Katherine says. The first group includes natural problem-solvers. One of the biggest draws for Katherine was the chance to use logic on a daily basis.
“If you’re a person who likes to problem-solve and tackle complex issues, this is the type of field that will definitely challenge you and keep you engaged,” explains Katherine.
Women who enjoy pushing their limits intellectually are also great candidates for a job in a STEAM-related field. In fact, being surrounded by experts has its perks, notes Katherine. Because the bar for those entering the field continues to rise, those in the field associate with highly intelligent individuals. As a result, your mind grows as well.
“I’ve worked with the smartest people in the field, and it’s been wonderful,” she explains.
Of course, having a financially stable career with room to grow is also attracting more women into these fields.
In fact, studies have shown that 63% of people with degrees in STEAM-related work get paid more than people with any other type of bachelor’s degree. And for women in particular, the fact that there is somewhat less of a gender gap when it comes to pay can be an even bigger draw.
“Financially, it’s very rewarding,” says Katherine. “There are so many opportunities within these fields and at my company in particular, I know we are always pushing for diversity and inclusion.”
How Have Things Changed for Women in STEM-related Careers?
In the two decades that Katherine has been involved in the world of IT and sciences, she’s seen a big shift in the way women are perceived in the workforce.
Years ago, she explains, women may not have had as much of a voice simply because they were outnumbered. Growing in this environment has been challenging for many women, she adds. However, as more women have become involved, boundaries are being pushed and positive changes are taking place.
“The balance creates a much more dynamic environment,” she says. Today, Katherine adds, it’s more common for peers and coworkers to view anyone on her IT team as someone simply doing a job — not as a man or a woman performing a certain role.
For Katherine, something that has really encouraged her as a woman in the field is seeing the success of other women in leadership positions. Although it’s estimated that currently only about 15% of CEO and prominent board member positions are filled by women in STEM companies, it’s seeing women deftly navigate these roles that is inspiring. Leaders like Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and the woman who is acting as interim CIO at Katherine’s company play a powerful role in inspiring other women to go further in their careers.
Moving into a leadership position is a big reason Katherine decided to pursue her Master's degree in Technology Management at the University Of Arizona Global Campus. Even with the increased push in getting women interested in STEAM-related fields, Katherine notes that the demographics of some of her classes at UAGC reflect the same diversity (or lack thereof) that one sees in the world of IT.
“Now that I’m entering the technical classes geared more toward my program, there are definitely more men than women in the class, to the tune of three women to seven men,” she says.
This is yet another reason she wants to inspire other women to pursue careers in STEAM.
“Women bring very different outlooks into the workplace,” says Katherine. “You throw that into a STEAM field, and it can provide a welcomed new outlook that changes into innovative thought processes, which may never have been achieved without a women’s perspective.”
If you’re a woman (or a man!) considering a degree in STEAM, you’ll find a wide array of opportunities at UAGC. With degrees available in health care, online information technology, and social and behavioral science degrees, finding your niche is as simple as narrowing down your options and getting started.
Want to learn more about STEM degrees at UAGC? Contact an enrollment advisor today.