Women as Mentors
When it comes to working in the world of information technology, women are going back in time. The numbers tell the story. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1984, 37 percent of college degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) were conferred on women; by 2010, that number had dropped to just 12 percent.
Among the many reasons for the decline is the lack of female mentors and role models in these fields. In a conversation with SIGNAL Media’s Sandra Jontz, Vice Adm. Nancy Brown, USN (Ret.), who most recently served as director of command, control, communications and computer systems (C4 Systems) on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commented about the topic.
"It's an issue because it is important to get the best talent, especially in computer security and the IT field today,” offers Adm. Brown. "We're not getting that. It is important to have mentors and role models—because when you don’t, it might not occur to you to stay in that field. If it's a male-dominated field, issues in the workplace sometimes are enough to discourage you from staying.”
Women must seek out mentors of all varieties, Adm. Brown advises, but it is particularly important for women in STEM to find those who have experience in the field, especially since experts indicate that in the future, more and more jobs will require advanced STEM skills.
“It's good to have someone as a mentor who has lived in that field, who will help you walk in her shoes,” Adm. Brown says. "If you're not in the STEM profession, I think you're still a good mentor to someone who is trying to stay in STEM, but a role model in your field—it's definitely something that you need."
Read the full interview with Vice Adm. Brown.
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