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Gender stereotyping a key barrier for women entering STEM fields

As the world faces a skilled workforce gap, the fifth annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) survey by Emerson found that six out of 10 Americans are interested in pursuing STEM careers – but fewer than four in 10 (39%) have felt encouraged to do so.

The disparity is even more pronounced among women: two out of three US women say they were not encouraged to pursue a career in STEM.

While the survey found that younger generations across the globe are three times more likely to be encouraged to pursue STEM careers than generations before them, there are still several critical gaps to address – particularly as industries continue to report that they cannot find individuals with the skills required for today’s advanced workplaces. 

For example, the National Association of Manufacturers found that more than 70% of manufacturers in the US are concerned about finding workers with appropriate skills.

“As automation and technology become truly ingrained in our workplaces and schools, there’s a growing urgency to prepare the workforce with STEM skills that will be critical to the continued strength of the global economy,” said David N Farr, chairman and chief executive officer for Emerson. “We want to lead the charge in making strategic investments that will provide both the current and future workforce with the right skillsets to succeed in one of the many tremendous careers made available through STEM – from software development to new technologies in manufacturing.”

Empowering more qualified workers of both genders to explore a STEM career could have a significant impact on the workforce gap. 

Of the women who said they were not encouraged to pursue STEM careers, most attributed this missed opportunity in the workforce to stereotypes against women and a lack of female role models in the field.

To keep up with the rapid pace of change, workers of both genders are increasingly looking to their employers to address these upskilling needs: 79% of global respondents said they believe companies should do more to train and prepare their STEM workforce. 

The growing emphasis in boosting STEM education is little surprise, as most of the world (94%) say they consider STEM education important to their respective country’s future.

Despite this universal understanding of the importance of STEM, less than half of people surveyed believe their country is ahead in STEM innovation. 

Creating an environment where everyone is encouraged to pursue STEM can help address this perception – and contribute to growing the global STEM workforce.

“Empowering individuals of all ages and backgrounds with the tools necessary to thrive in STEM is a crucial step in solving the growing talent gap across several key industries,” said Kathy Button Bell, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Emerson. “We have long been dedicated to fostering a culture at Emerson that attracts and advances women through a variety of initiatives, including our 4,000-member Women in STEM group, which provides support and mentoring for our female engineers globally.”

Emerson is helping to address this skills gap issue for people of all ages through its We Love STEM initiatives, partnerships with more than 350 universities and technical colleges worldwide, and investments in employee training.

Emerson’s recent STEM investments include the Performance Learning Platform, which enables hands-on training for current employees; training facility and equipment updates for Singapore Polytechnic; automation training technology centres at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M College of Engineering; and an automation technology centre at Colorado State University.

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