STEM-UP Network seeks to recruit, retain, and advance women in STEM

 

By 2018, 71 percent of jobs in the marketplace will require some mix of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills.

Yet, even though women make up about 50 percent of the national workforce, they are drastically underrepresented in the STEM fields, especially in the computer science and engineering sectors.

This high demand and short supply of skills are further aggravated by the fact that more than 50 percent of women who enter STEM careers abandon their professions within 12 years, versus 20 percent who leave non-STEM careers.

These shocking statistics are prime reasons why the STEM-UP Network exists.

The STEM-UP Network, a community of about 400 people (and growing) across the Mid-Atlantic Region, seeks to eliminate the researched factors that push women to leave STEM careers, factors that include, but are not limited to, uncivil work climate and lack of skills, resources, and networks needed for career advancement.

The collaborative goes beyond this, however.

The STEM-UP Network, a social enterprise powered by Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, provides women in STEM with real-world strategies, relationships, and a strong community that support their ability to flourish, prosper and advance both personally and in their careers.

“This is not just a noble and nice thing to do. There is a strong business case here that starts with the tremendous costs of losing so many qualified and educated STEM professionals for reasons that can often be addressed and minimized,” said Dr. Bili S. Mattes, Executive Director of the STEM-UP Network and Provost and Chief Academic Officer at HU. “McKinsey Global, for example, has demonstrated through research that by addressing gender issues in the workforce, the U.S. economy alone stands to gain $2-3 trillion dollars. Globally, the economy could gain $23 trillion. ”

Mattes and Lisa McGahren, Director of Programs and Services for the STEM-UP Network, lead the collaborative, which has evolved in the six years since the initiative was established.

Initially created to attract and retain academic women to STEM disciplines, the collaborative expanded its horizons to promote the retention and advancement of all women in STEM fields.

During the past six years, the STEM-UP Network leveraged a $750,000 National Science Foundation grant to deliver programs and services across the region.

The STEM-UP Network offers a community-based and highly successful mentoring program, and it has established a variety of networking programs and services. For example, the Network offers leadership development programs for both early career, as well as more senior career, women in Central Pennsylvania.

The STEM-UP Network presents about three community forums each year that are focused on topics of importance and interest to women professionals in STEMacross the region, executive retreats, and is planning a STEM career summit for women that will allow employers to showcase their interesting and cutting-edge work in STEM.

Central Pennsylvania is home base for the STEM-UP Network. The goal, however, is to expand its reach, possibly going national, in a strategic manner.

“What we learned from the women we’ve worked with over the last six years is that it’s about the community,” Dr. Mattes said. “So, we are asking ourselves, how do we thoughtfully grow the community and maintain local connections?”

Going forward, Dr. Mattes and McGahren said the STEM-UP Network’s short-term goals involve expanding STEM-UP to two additional areas where it can build and expand its community and offer programing in the upcoming year.

Long-term, the collaborative wants to effect change.

“It’s about creating social and economic impact so that women are staying and thriving in their STEM professions and taking on leadership roles and responsibilities,” Dr. Mattes said.

To learn more about the STEM-UP Network, visit the collaborative’s website www.stemupnetwork.org. You also can find the STEM-UP Network on Facebook.

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email, Connect@HarrisburgU.edu.