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As early as college, it seems, future CEOs face critical choices that can make or break their chance of getting to the corner office. This is doubly true for female executives. Many of the female executives listed in Fortune's Most Powerful Women rankings for 2016 share a common attribute: backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math (known by the popular moniker STEM).
However, STEM graduates could point out that correlation does not imply causation: that is, just because women with top corporate jobs studied STEM, does not mean that is why they made it to the C-suite. This is especially true when the sample size is relatively small, with just 5% of Fortune 500 companies being led by women.
But there is some very compelling anecdotal evidence:
The list goes on. It's also fairly uncontroversial to assert that STEM education is critically important to national competitiveness, as the heads of Google, Cisco, and Coca-Cola, among others, say.
Interestingly enough, men tend to dominate STEM education. Women are not pursuing degrees such as a bachelor's or graduate IT degree. In fact, just under 18% of computer science graduates are women. Women are also underrepresented in the associated workforce fields. While women make up about half of the workforce, they only represent 29% in the sciences and engineering fields, and specifically only 25% in computer and mathematical sciences occupations.
Both business and government have a strong interest in reversing that trend, and are taking meaningful steps. From corporate-sponsored hacker spaces that encourage working with circuit boards and learning to code, to company mentoring programs and networking events, promoting women in STEM has become a bona fide cause.
These programs are poised to make a difference over the long term, driving more women to pursue STEM. It may help that there are significant financial incentives to do so. Women in STEM earn 33% more than their peers in other fields, according to White House data.
There is, of course, no guaranteed way to become the next Meg Whitman, who studied math and science in college, ran E-Bay, and now heads up Hewlett-Packard. But, as a growing body of research suggests, choosing a particular major could in many ways have an outsize impact on a woman's career. That is not to say that students interested in the humanities should not study English or sociology. They may, however, want to consider a double major.
Why Industry Wants and Needs More Women in Technology
Decisiveness On a Career Choice Can Be Difficult
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And if you are considering pursuing higher education we invite you to find out more about Kaplan University’s programs and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.It is important to note that certain career paths are growing and our degrees are designed to strengthen your knowledge and prepare our students to advance their careers. But Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. Several factors specific to a student’s or alumni’s backgrounds and actions, as well as economic and job conditions, affect employment. Also, keep in mind that national long-term projections covered in articles may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
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