We know science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are important fields for Hoosiers to consider for our current and future workforce needs.

On National STEM Day (that’s today!), one of Indiana’s home-grown technology companies offers tips on how to encourage more girls and women to advance in STEM fields. Brenda Stallings has led Matrix Integration as CEO and founder since 1979; she’s received numerous awards for leadership in technology and business, and launched Blended Coders, a STEM program for girls in Dubois County.

A recent press release from Matrix Integration notes STEM-related data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Jobs in computing and technology are expected to grow 13% by 2026
  • Tech job wages have a median annual salary of $84,580 in 2017 (compared to a median annual wage of all professions of over $37,000)
  • In the number of high schoolers studying computer science, boys outnumber girls
  • Women make up about a quarter of the IT labor force today, having fallen from the highest point of 36% in 1991.

Stallings offers six tips on developing girls for STEM careers:

  1. Take girls to work in STEM-related jobs. Entrepreneurs and business leaders working in STEM fields can open their business to girls with a passion for STEM subjects. Businesses can create “Bring Your Kids to STEM Work Day,” offer free STEM projects, and create internships for girls to experience real-world problems and solutions.
  2. Boost up girls. “I think girls can feel alone in the STEM world,” said Stallings. “This time of their lives is very important. That’s why I started a program called ‘Blended Coders’ for middle school girls in Southern Indiana. It’s taught by women in the industry, and it’s building a bridge between women in tech and the girls in the next generation.” Click here for video on Blended Coders.
  3. In tech, creativity counts. “Girls with a love of math and science as well as artistic passions have an opportunity to bring a creative, collaborative presence to the work world and to lead companies. Creative thinking paired with logical thinking are traits much needed in technology,” said Stallings.
  4. Don’t resist learning the hard stuff. Children can grasp technical concepts faster than we realize, according to Stallings. Learning to code a new app, build a robot or create on a 3D printer are exciting challenges for them. Don’t let young girls shy away from what is perceived as the hard stuff.
  5. Develop problem-solving skills. Girls start to think more like scientists when adults don’t answer their questions right away. Let them try to figure things out and take ownership of their learning. Problem-solving skills are required for careers in STEM-related industries like manufacturing.
  6. Build communication and social skills. Techy types are not always known to have the best communication skills. Teaching girls how to communicate confidently and understand others’ needs is critical for a successful future.
Charlee Beasor is the communications & PR manager for the Indiana Chamber. She is also a writer for the Chamber’s award-winning BizVoice magazine and has been with the organization for eight years.