I was recently reading about Elon Musk’s predictions for the future. He argues that as robots become better at doing traditionally human jobs, we may soon need a “universal basic income” due to job widespread displacement. Reading this, I began to wonder what the future will look like two generations from now, or three, or four. We can’t all be visionaries like Elon Musk – but we can concentrate on making changes that are within our reach right now.
The STEM worker crisis
According to the Smithsonian, 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfilled by next year. We need more people to study the STEM fields because they will shape the future – and because STEM skills will offer some measure of job security as jobs in many fields are automated.
Current STEM professionals, I’m talking to you. We must take a more active role here to encourage young people to pursue jobs in these crucially important industries.
Here’s what we’re doing:
A few times per year, I decide to really get out of my shell and do something extremely challenging for my introverted self. The opportunity presented itself when my extroverted peer Shekinah Smith (pictured below) introduced me to this wonderful program called INTech Camp. Founded by Khalia Braswell, the camp’s mission is to INFORM and INSPIRE girls to INNOVATE in the tech field.
This year, to my surprise, I received an email from INTech saying I’d been identified as one of their inspiring people. They wanted me to speak with a group of middle school girls at a mini-camp to be held during Engineers Week, Feb 19–25, 2017. I jumped at the opportunity. And it was awesome! INTech Camp does very important work in inspiring young girls — but nationally, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
How we can help
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM-related careers are projected to grow faster than any other field. There’s well-researched data out there that women are still underrepresented in STEM fields, and closing the gender gap must be a priority.
The National Science Foundation estimates that women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce. Among female tech professionals, the statistics are even more worrisome when talking about diversity. Let that sink in: this matters. A lot.
I feel that the outreach efforts have not been as strategic as they need to be, and the lack of both women and minorities in tech is a major disparity. We’re in this together, and we’re going to need all hands on deck; it is imperative for the growth of our society, technological and otherwise.
The truth is, I went to INTech Camp not only to inspire but to be inspired! The kids’ abilities and curiosity left me in total awe. They are fast, they are bright, they are creative – they are our future! All they need is a bit of confidence and encouragement from us, the “adults,” to be fierce and determined in pursuing their dreams. I hope they will grow up to write computer programs, cure diseases, discover the next technological advances… and ultimately change the world.