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Next steps for building an inclusive STEM workforce

3 min read

Career-Technical Education

In March, SmartBrief on Education will highlight clips from its STEM Pathways Panel Series. To stay tuned for more events like this one, check out the SmartBrief Education Events page. 

What will it take to ignite a student’s interest in a science, technology, engineering or math field? And how can stakeholders encourage women – who make up close to 50% of the US workforce, but comprise less than 25% of the STEM labor pool, data suggest –to pursue these 21st-centruy jobs?

Strategies to build a representative workforce include early access to STEM education, role models and real-world relevance, according to Kathy Hurley, CEO and co-founder of Girls Thinking Global. Hurley shared tips for increasing gender equity at a recent SmartBrief STEM Pathways Panel.


Good programs that are working to bridge the STEM gender gap often share common characteristics, Hurley suggested. They avoid jargon and highlight how STEM concepts are used to address global issues. They also share examples of role models, according to Hurley, who collected profiles of women leaders in the book “Real Women, Real Leaders.”

“If you look back 100 years, a lot of people in math and science were women,” she said. And examples abound today, she added. “Think about corporate America…the CEO of IBM is a woman.”

And schools don’t have to invest in expensive programs or technologies to increase access to STEM education, according to Barb Huber, an aerospace educator for Loudoun County Schools in Virginia.


Huber has used PVC pipe to make tabletop rocket launchers. Resources like applications such as Kerbal Space Program and Scratch can also be inexpensive and useful.

A simple challenge to create can encourage students to transform everyday objects into STEM-based projects. “Paper rolls, bottle caps and things like that are great,” she said. “Funding is important, though not necessary, if you have a good design challenge.”

Mina Dixon is an editorial assistant at SmartBrief, where she helps write and edit content across industries, including education.

SmartBrief Education’s Path to Workforce content series brings you original content and events on the topic. #Path2W is our vision of college and career readiness, encompassing K-12, adult learners, career changers, non-traditional students and those who forgo a traditional four-year college experience.

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