Inspiring Young Girls to Pursue Healthcare & Stem Fields
September 6, 2018 | Blog Post
"We need to create an inclusive and welcoming STEM landscape that welcomes and encourages little girls to explore their curiosity and consider careers in healthcare and the life science sectors."
Somewhere, there is a little girl who just purchased a notebook for science class. She is delighted by the satin feel of the patterned plastic cover, the glimmer of the spiral binding and most of all, the promise of empty notebook pages to fill with new pieces of knowledge and the occasional doodles. She is full of potential, this girl with the brand new notebook. Tomorrow, in science class, she may learn about a biological phenomenon that she could go on to study in graduate school. Perhaps she will discover a passion for chemistry or a penchant for astronomy. The future, like that notebook, is hers for a beautiful moment.
This moment is fleeting and harsh in its brevity. The raw probabilities are not in this girl, or any girls favor. Only a quarter of academic professors are women. Only 12% of biotechnology and pharmaceutical CEOs are women. Only 4% of healthcare CEOs are women.
"That little girl dreaming of a scientific career, perhaps fueled by the impressive recent advertising campaigns, has to fight the odds already."
The statistics show that by junior high and high school, her interest will diminish. College and graduate school may sideline her interest. If after that her interest is still alive, she faces an uphill battle professionally. Nearly one in five women with a STEM degree leave the workforce.
It strikes me that as we encourage our little girls to take the science and technology road, we often forget to make the road smoother as well.
We forget to highlight the fact that the women who do succeed, despite the odds, do well. In STEM fields, women earn 33% more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs. Women have a 14% wage gap in STEM, as opposed to a 21% wage gap outside of STEM.
We forget to point out the bitter irony when in the same news week, we see advertising for girls to join the computer sciences and witnessed the start of a gender lawsuit at a highly valued technology company.
We forget to ask large STEM companies with advertising campaigns what they are actually doing on the ground. Do they have policies in place to help women succeed? Do they make policy changes when it comes to hiring, maternity leave, and work from home regulations that can actually help change the numbers?
Personally, I have worked to encourage girls to join STEM. I chair a non-profit, The Science Runway that uses the stories of women who have successfully navigated a career in the life sciences to inspire little girls. This approach allows us to encourage girls while offering them the candid advice they will need to succeed in the real world. It is a delicate balance, but one that is necessary to strike.
"As a society, we need to do more to ensure that the girls who do have degrees find the support and resources to push forward with their dreams at a professional level."
We need to do more to make that road smoother, to make it more appealing than it is today for a young girl. If we don’t do anything at a higher level to improve the chances that these girls have once they do reach the pinnacles of their profession, all the inspiration in the world won’t change the status quo.
The Science Runway. Mentoring & support for girls. Learn more below.
The Science Runway is designed to inspire girls to pursue a career in STEM fields and the life sciences through sharing the life stories of women who successfully built careers in life sciences. We are focused on the collection and curation of exceptional stories of women succeeding in the life sciences. We have screened over 500 women in top roles across the life sciences industry and selected a cohort of women to share their interviews on our interactive website: These women include Nobel Prize winner Carol Greider and Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. Please visit thesciencerunway.com to learn more.
Joseph Gaspero is the CEO and Co-Founder of CHI. He is a healthcare executive, strategist, and researcher. He co-founded CHI in 2009 to be an independent, objective, and interdisciplinary research and education institute for healthcare. Joseph leads CHI’s research and education initiatives focusing on including patient-driven healthcare, patient engagement, clinical trials, drug pricing, and other pressing healthcare issues. He sets and executes CHI’s strategy, devises marketing tactics, leads fundraising efforts, and manages CHI’s Management team. Joseph is passionate and committed to making healthcare and our world a better place. His leadership stems from a wide array of experiences, including founding and operating several non-profit and for-profit organizations, serving in the U.S. Air Force in support of 2 foreign wars, and deriving expertise from time spent in industries such as healthcare, financial services, and marketing. Joseph’s skills include strategy, management, entrepreneurship, healthcare, clinical trials, diversity & inclusion, life sciences, research, marketing, and finance. He has lived in six countries, traveled to over 30 more, and speaks 3 languages, all which help him view business strategy through the prism of a global, interconnected 21st century. Joseph has a B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. When he’s not immersed in his work at CHI, he spends his time snowboarding backcountry, skydiving, mountain biking, volunteering, engaging in MMA, and rock climbing.