Late last month, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton hosted the fourth meeting of CGI Americas, an annual event focused on finding solutions that promote economic recovery in the United States. This working meeting brought together leaders from corporations, foundations, NGOs, and government sectors to develop solutions for economic growth, long-term competitiveness, and social mobility. Since the first meeting in 2011, CGI America participants have made more than 300 “Commitments to Action” valued at nearly $16 billion, which are already affecting nearly 1.4 million lives.
On the second day of the event, 100 new “Commitments to Action” were featured onstage with Hillary Clinton. Intel’s commitment to increasing the number of girls starting and staying with STEM careers was chosen as one of the key commitments.
Intel Foundation is a founding supporter of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and successfully piloted the NCWIT AspireIT initiative last summer. This event provided an opportunity to announce the scaling of the program based on positive pilot results. The Commitment to Action is:
By 2018, NCWIT will engage 10,000 middle school girls in learning computing concepts. It will scale the successfully piloted NCWIT’s AspireIT (URL) initiative, which enlists technical high school or college women in designing and leading computing programs for younger girls. This innovative “near-peer” approach allows young women to become role models and build leadership skills while encouraging younger girls to pursue computing.
The announcement was made in conjunction with the other two National Sponsors of the AspireIT Program, Northrop Grumman and Google. Hillary Clinton commented: “It won’t surprise anyone that I absolutely love this idea.” I love it too Hillary.
Why is this commitment from Intel and NCWIT important to me?
During the event, it was shared during a panel that a child born to parents in the bottom fifth of the income distribution has a 7.5% chance of reaching the top fifth of the income distribution in the United States. It was also shared that women currently represent less than one quarter of individuals earning STEM degrees. Panelists one by one discussed the importance of the role of parents, communities and society and ways to proactively tackle these challenges.
It struck me while sitting there that I found a way to overcome the stats. It left me solidly concluding what my parents often shared with us; you can’t let poverty, zip codes or stats control your destiny. Education is still the #1 accelerator out of poverty. What has slightly changed is that STEM education trumps all other education more now than ever in terms of return on investment. Women, as an example, earn 92 cents on the dollar in STEM careers versus 77 cents today in non-STEM jobs. And STEM jobs are growing 2X as compared to non-STEM jobs.
While sitting in the large hotel ballroom gazing at this crowd of thought leaders, a poem often recited by my father, came to me. “I can’t is a pale, puny pimp,” echoed in my head. It reminded me of just how fortunate I am to have chosen a STEM career. I am one of the 7.5% who took a chance; I also represent that small fraction of less than 25% earning a STEM degree as a female. It can be done and is a reminder that anything is possible if you set a goal, persist and maintain a healthy network of supporting mentors.
My personal Call to Action
I am committed to ensuring that girls and underserved students see STEM careers as a viable part of their futures. We know from research that if we can nurture student interest through hands on experiences, connect students with how these careers make a difference in the world and ensure mentors are there each step of the way, the possibilities are limitless. Education is an identity choice and showing more young people what engineers look like can aid with the STEM identity crisis. I’m a STEMinist with the goal of helping one student at a time connect personally with the belief and grit of knowing they have the power to be and excel beyond their wildest dreams.
I urge you to take similar actions: this quarter, introduce one student to a hands-on STEM activity. Your action will help them see the power of STEM careers, and it will inspire them to build innovative solutions which can deliver true social value.
I am looking forward to reading your reactions to this post. And if you are inspired to take action, please let me know that as well!