Whether you made a cup of joe in your kitchen or ran through the drive-thru for a brew from your favorite barista this morning, both methods of caffeinating were brought to you by technology. But while tech and science are universal and unite all of us, they are also fields where the gender divide continues.

The numbers

In an industry-wide report filed in 2020, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft self-reported statistics of female representation in their companies. Among the Big Five, women make up between 28% and 42% of their workforce. When it comes to leadership, 25% to 33% of women hold decision-maker positions. If those numbers do not give you pause in the disparity between the sexes, the number of women who have jobs in technology ranges from 20% to 23%. While a gap remains between the number of women versus men in science and tech fields, that margin is closing.


The United States is known globally for providing opportunities for higher education. Yet, when we look at the US compared to countries that are blazing trails and emerging as science and engineering education contenders, our system lacks the focus and recruitment needed to reach tomorrow’s female tech leaders. That’s where Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs come in. STEM creates early opportunities for all children to experience how cool science can be. For girls, that exposure can make all the difference.

Names to know

Women have been a part of science, technology, engineering and math for centuries. Some have remained hidden figures, while others have burst from the shadows and are being recognized for their contributions. Although this is not an exhaustive list, this sampling of the trailblazers in STEM changed the world by opening doors for others.


  • Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman in America to earn her MD and spent her life championing women’s and children’s health initiatives.


  • Nettie Stevens’s (1861-1912) cytology and regenerative work led her to discover X and Y chromosomes, which fueled other scientific milestones in genetics.


  • Lise Meitner (1878-1968), the “Mother of Nuclear Power,” teamed with Otto Hahn to discover nuclear fission. Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize, while the omission of Meitner is forever referred to as “The Nobel Mistake.”


  • Cecilia Payne (1900-1979) became the first person to earn a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard, then the first female Chair of the Department of Astronomy at her alma mater.


  • Grace Hopper (1906-1992) and Chein-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) played integral roles in World War II with their expertise in computers and atomic energy, respectively.


  • Katherine Johnson’s (1918-2020) computations at Langley Research Center and, later, NASA influenced all major space programs and exploration missions.


  • Antonia Novello (1994-Present) was not only the first female Surgeon General of the United States, but she was also the first person of Hispanic heritage to hold that office.


  • Sally Ride (1951-2012) rose to the top of 1,000 applicants to earn her place in NASA’s astronaut program, becoming the first woman to travel into space.


  • Mae C. Jemison (1956-Present) knew after serving as a medical officer in the Peace Corps that her next calling was NASA. On September 12, 1992, she became the first African-American woman to explore the galaxy.

Cultivating STEM experiences

The number of girls gaining early exposure to STEM is growing. Throughout elementary, middle and high schools across America, states have updated requirements and created more hands-on math and science learning opportunities for kids to learn. As kids grow older, many lose interest and move on to other activities. So, how can we keep girls and young women curious and motivated to invest their bright futures in math and science?

woman reading information on monitor

STEM exposure

The more girls can participate in STEM activities and meet women in the field, the more we all benefit in the future. Girls may gain an interest in science and math at an early age. Others may wane yet remain curious. Only targeting the very young means a generation of young women could be missing an entire workforce of women. Girls who shy away from science and math when young may find a mindset and talent for it when older. Educators must continue providing activities and assignments that keep STEM at the forefront for all school-aged boys and girls. Reaching young women and retaining their interest means creating learning environments they respond to and want to be a part of. Long-term science and tech exposure allows those who have a drive, talent and interest to realize their curiosity could lead to a career. All students must feel included, rather than excluded, in a field that must continue attracting a new generation—especially women—to make gains.


  • Out-of-school opportunities. You are only one Google search away from a summer camp, enrichment class or online event that can feed your daughter’s STEM curiosity. Programs tailored to girls of all ages are gaining popularity and meeting the needs of those who crave more enrichment opportunities. Meeting other girls with similar science and tech interests can be challenging. Providing a place for girls to meet peers with the same interests can give them confidence, camaraderie and career goals. Feeding girls’ interest in this area has the potential to open a world they never knew was possible.


  • Be a mentor. Finding someone to guide and lead you can make all the difference. Time and again, successful women applaud and recommend mentorship to achieve goals. If you’re a woman in STEM, have you considered being a mentor? Mentors have the capability and capacity to encourage others who want to reach for success. Those who take on mentees not only spend valuable time teaching but are invested for the long haul. For women in STEM, it’s crucial to have someone to show them the way forward, then do the same for someone else on their way up.


  • Be the boss. Take charge of your destiny, enrich your daughter’s future or help other women in your life by learning more about STEM enrichment. The internet is bursting with websites and resources to learn about careers, internships and job opportunities. Joining a professional association created for women is another way to build professional relationships. We live in a tech age where resources are at our fingertips, so don’t let the chance to learn about more STEM pass you by.


As women gain better visibility in STEM and secure more positions from support roles to the C-suite, girls will recognize pathways exist for them too. A road forged by women who shattered glass ceilings and reinvented the formula of females playing a massive role in STEM. No matter the industry, when one woman rises, we all rise together.

woman reading information on monitor

Looking for ways to get yourself, or your best girl, into more STEM activities? Check out these resources online or on social media to entrench with tech-minded women:


Girlstart harnesses innovative, nationally recognized informal education programs to encourage girls to become more interested and engaged in STEM with programs for girls from kindergarten to grade 12.

Girls Who Code is an organization that supports programs equipping girls with computing skills and inspiring them to create technology for a better world.


The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) brings together STEM organizations focused on helping girls pursue STEM careers. Together, they maximize access to shared resources, strengthen the capacity of existing projects and leverage a network of STEM programs to create and maximize gender equality in STEM.


Women Who Code envisions a world where females are proportionally represented across industries as technical leaders, executives, founders, VCs, board members and software engineers. The organization offers an expansive range of benefits for its female members, such as coding resources, 1,700 annual events and leadership opportunities.


Women & Hi Tech levels the playing field for women in tech in Indiana by providing ways to connect. The group organizes events and award shows, spotlights women in the industry and provides guidance and support to change the landscape of women in STEM.


ChickTech focuses on providing learning opportunities for female students, and continued education and social events for professional women by guiding companies to create more inclusive workspaces.

Sources: Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Society of Women Engineers, Women in Technology International, Association of Women in Science and Association for Women in Mathematics

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