Microsoft Programs Expand Access to STEAM Education for Women and Girls

February 22, 2017

Takeaways

Microsoft programs work towards ensuring greater access to STEAM education for women and girls.

We connected with Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager for Microsoft's Technology & Civic Engagement Team in Boston, MA, to discuss Microsoft's programs that are helping expand access to STEAM education for women and girls. The Technology & Civic Engagement team brings Microsoft’s best assets to bear to help civic leaders -- and the communities they serve – use technology and cutting edge ideas to solve their biggest challenges. We're thrilled to welcome Aimee as a speaker on one of the panels, "Future-Ready Women in STEAM," during our upcoming Women's Empowerment Principles Forum, "Measuring Success, Making it Count: Business Investing in Women and Girls." 

Please join Aimee and other women economic empowerment leaders on March 14-15 in New York City to explore the role of the private sector in achieving the sustainable development agenda. Reserve your spot today! Registration closes March 7.

1.)    Tell us about Microsoft’s work in involving more women and girls in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).

Microsoft believes in empowering every person on the planet to do more—this includes ensuring that all students have access to STEM and STEAM education. Here, we focus on three areas: First, we support impactful nonprofits and programs that encourage women and girls to pursue education in STEAM; programs like Girls Who Code, Technovation, Science Club for Girls and the Museum of Science’s Women’s Programs. Second, we are pursuing a policy agenda in coordination with code.org to ensure that all students, including girls, have access to quality computer science education. Currently, only 24 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation. At Microsoft, we believe all students should have access to the 21st century skills needed to excel in today’s workforce. Lastly, Microsoft supports women's programs within the company to grow female leadership and provide strong mentorship to employees. Programs like Women@NERD (the women's affinity group at New England Research & Development Center) or Leadership Learning Circles (a one year program that develops a cohort of women of all levels to coach and support one another) provide deep investments in female employees at Microsoft.

2.)    Why is this a priority for Microsoft?

Last year, 42,969 computer science graduates entered the workforce—looking to fill the over 527,000* open positions. With each year that passes, this gap grows more and more. Microsoft is not only committed to filling this gap, we are committed to bringing in a diverse workforce that can help create the technology of tomorrow. We want our employees to reflect our customers.

*Stats via code.org

3.)    What excites you most about your work on civic engagement to support more involvement by women and girls in the innovation ecosystem?

Tech and social media are changing how we engage in the civic environment. Communities can now tweet at their mayor, post to a blog about engaging the next generation in of civic fabric or start a campaign on Facebook to promote diversity in technology.  We can organize to impact change and technology is empowering young people, including my own kids, in a way we have not seen in previous generations. Organizations like Generation Citizen and YouthCITIES are using these technologies to help garner real change in communities across the country all while raising the next group of leaders. I can't wait to see what they do next! 

4.)    Increasing engagement and interest among girls in STEAM careers is a great first step.  What happens next?

Careers in STEAM fields are quite diverse--from hardware engineers to robotics to video game programming--girls can choose from a variety of pathways.  And while internships are a terrific way for students to learn about the various jobs, there are a limited number of internship opportunities for students (particularly high school students).  Let's broaden our definition of hands on experience - consider job shadows, informational interviews, vacation camps or self-contained programs, like Girls Who Code, to gain relevant experience.  Even project based learning, like building an app for Technovation, is an excellent way to explore different pathways.

As students and industry mentors, we can all think creatively about ways to expose more girls to STEAM careers.