STEM Gender Gap

Cacilia Kim and Sharon Westafer, Co-Presidents, American Association of University Women, Long Beach

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Girls Who Code, a nonprofit tech group, recently hosted the first Female Governor’s Summit in Menlo Park. The summit focused on strategies to combat the gender gap in technology by taking the fight locally to the states.

Focusing on state-led initiatives is a good strategy. The Long Beach branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a non-profit that has advocated for the rights of women since 1911, has long embraced grass-roots programs to get more girls into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers – which provide higher wages, greater job stability and significant growth opportunities.

Over the last 13 years, AAUW Long Beach has hosted over 1,700 girls from local middle schools and introduced them to dynamic women right in their community who work as software engineers, paleontologists, environmental scientists and in other diverse STEM professions. On Friday, our 14th Annual Stem Career Conference hosted over 220 girls to participate in “hands-on” workshops about the “ins and outs” of working in different STEM careers – many of which the girls had likely never even heard of. The conference is a collaborative community effort that unites local schools, businesses, STEM professionals, and larger entities like the Port of Long Beach. 

And we have other programs that build on this one. “Tech Trek” is a week-long STEM camp at a local university. Our college scholarships and mentorship programs support advanced degrees in STEM. We even have programs after college, like a salary negotiation workshop – because pay disparities exist even in STEM jobs with women generally earning less pay than men.

Local organizations, like AAUW Long Beach, know their community and have the relationships to develop innovative programs that will close the STEM gender gap. Take the fight locally to the states? We are ready.



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