Archive: Dec 2008

  1. Research Reveals Barriers for Women in Tech

    1 Comment

    Women at the middle level of their high-tech careers are extremely valuable to their organizations, but new research indicates that this seems to be the very point at which they face the greatest barriers to advancement.

    According to “Climbing the Technical Ladder: Obstacles and Solutions for Mid-Level Women in Technology,” 29% of women are planning to leave their mid-level positions at high-tech companies in the next 12 months and pursue alternative options. The study, conducted by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology in conjunction with the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, is available at http://www.anitaborg.org/news/research.

    Climbing the Technical Ladder provides an in-depth look into the barriers to retention and advancement of technical women and provides solid recommendations to high-tech companies on how to overcome these barriers. The study examines technical women at mid-level ranking because it is a critical juncture for both women on the technical ladder—a complex set of gender barriers converge at this point—and the high-tech firms that employ them. While most high tech companies do recognize the benefits of diversity, gender disparity in technical jobs remains glaringly obvious as very few women reach top technical positions such as Technology Fellow or Vice President of Engineering. Indeed, the report finds that men are 2.7 times more likely to be in a high-level position than are women, and that women comprise an increasingly smaller proportion of the workforce at every level of the technology corporate ladder.

    “Studies have shown that, for a variety of reasons, workforce diversity boosts a company’s bottom line,” states Dr. Caroline Simard, director of research for the Anita Borg Institute and co-author of the study. “This fact, combined with the lower number of men and women entering technical fields, makes it critical for high tech companies to focus on eliminating the barriers to retention and advancement of their technical women.”

    The study found that some of these barriers to advancement include the following:

    • Women are more likely than men to perceive the workplace as a competitive culture and do not believe it’s a meritocracy.

    • Technical women in management positions are perceived as less technically competent than their male counterparts, creating an environment where women are viewed (and can view themselves) as “not fitting in”.

    • Mid-level women are more likely than men to believe that extended work days are a requirement for success, which may lead to the perception among women that those who cannot regularly stay late are less likely to advance.

    • While both men and women value family, men are nearly four times more likely than women to have a partner who assumes the primary responsibility for the household and children. The report shows that 34% of mid-level technical women have deliberately delayed having children to achieve career goals.

    • Women are more likely than men to suffer poor health due to excessive work related stress, and over 68% report limiting their amount of sleep to achieve their career goals.

    While the study shines a bright light on the barriers to advancement for mid-level technical women, it also offers recommended solutions for companies who wish to retain and advance technical women. Some of the recommendations include:

    • Investing in professional development is the most profitable step high-tech companies can take to advance technical women and retain all technical talent.

    • Offering flexibility in work schedules is essential for retaining mid-level women who often face unique work/life challenges.

    • Providing a diverse leadership team is essential to foster a culture that values diversity. Companies can demonstrate their dedication by increasing the female representation on their board of directors and other leadership entities.

    For more about women in engineering, visit www.GraduatingEngineer.com.

  2. Motorola Supports Student Achievement in STEM

    1 Comment

    The Motorola Foundation recently announced the recipients of its Innovation Generation grants, which provided $4 million in 2008 to more than 80 K-12 education programs across the country. The program supports sustainable solutions that strengthen the U.S. position in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by cultivating a workforce of critical thinkers.

    “We’ve reached a threshold in our global competitiveness in math and science where the need to spark and sustain students’ interest in these critical skills is paramount,” says Eileen Sweeney, director of the Motorola Foundation. “Building a diverse pipeline of critical thinkers, skilled scientists, and engineers is a by-product of our efforts that not only will benefit Motorola and our industry, but also will support a sustainable workforce and bolster the country’s competitive advantage in the global knowledge-based economy.”

    Motorola has provided more than $20 million in funding since 2005 to enable students to invent and learn as part of hands-on, interactive after-school programs, science and math clubs, camps, and mentoring programs. The Foundation’s focus on STEM education in the United States directly addresses obstacles to achievement by engaging students—particularly girls and under represented minorities—in the practical applications of the concepts engineers and technologists employ every day at Motorola.

    The latest research shows that jobs requiring science, engineering, or technical training will increase 24% between 2004 and 2014 to 6.3 million. The disparity between the growing demand for critical thinkers and the country’s ability to adequately prepare students to fill these jobs has been widening for decades. The most recent global survey of 15-year-olds’ performance in science shows 24% of U.S. students surveyed at the lowest level of performance-below the level at which students begin to demonstrate the ability to successfully participate in the workforce. The lack of skilled graduates in these fields poses a significant threat to sustained U.S. competitiveness in the global knowledge-intensive economy.

    Furthermore, diversity in these fields is lagging. This May, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering announced the results of a study funded by the Motorola Foundation that found African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians continue to be underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

    “Diverse viewpoints don’t just affect the way companies design and develop products. They are a competitive advantage for U.S. businesses,” states Sweeney. “We want to do everything possible to make technology accessible and relevant for all kids—regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic background-so that they develop a passion for problem solving.”

    Of 2008 Innovation Generation grantees, 43% target African-American students, 23% serve Hispanics, and 35% engage girls specifically.

    “Support from the Motorola Foundation is enabling us to not only get minority middle and high school youth, particularly girls, interested in science, but to keep them interested via personalized experiences with scientists. Furthermore, we know that interest in science among 8th graders is a better indicator than test scores for predicting future career choices,” says Gabrielle Lyon, Cofounder and Executive Director of Project Exploration. “We look forward to partnering with Motorola and the Innovation Generation network of STEM champions toward our common mission of supporting opportunities, achievement, and inspiration in STEM subjects.”

    To see a full list of grantee recipients or to learn more about Motorola’s Innovation Generation grant program, visit www.motorola.com/giving.