Women in STEM are changing the world. They're finding cures for diseases, making moves on other planets (while working to save our own planet from the damaging effects of climate change), advancing artificial intelligence, developing software that is helping companies tackle everyday challenges and so much more.
Still, women are underrepresented in STEM careers like engineering. So here are five female engineers leading the industry, and some resources to help you dive into a career in STEM yourself.
Despite the obvious lack of female leaders in finance, the few who've made it to the top are changing the future of STEM. Here are five women engineers you should know.
Carol Leung is the engineer manager of Airbnb. She leads the engineering for the "guest side" of Airbnb's Plus initiative.
"I love traveling and immersing myself in different cultures — I have lived and worked as an engineer in different parts of the world, building algorithmic trading systems at Goldman Sachs Tokyo, co-founding my own digital photography software startup in Hong Kong, leading a mobile development team at XtremeLabs (now Pivotal) in Toronto, and building an iOS and Android app from the ground up for a small social network startup after I moved back to San Francisco," she said of her experience in an interview on the site. "My love of travel (and software development) lead me to Airbnb. I love that I can use my passion for traveling to help shape a product that enriches other people’s journeys."
Meredith Westafer is a senior industrial engineer at Tesla, where she manages the design and layout of the company's Gigafactory. The Gigafactory, located in Reno, Nevada, will be the world's largest factory by footprint and produce the lithium-ion batteries on which Tesla vehicles run.
Karen Casella is the engineering leader of the Edge & Playback Access teams at Netflix, where leads the teams responsible for ensuring that Netflix users are viewing content securely. She was formerly the vice president of engineering at Shop.com and has also held engineering positions at eBay and Sun Microsystems.
Yael Garten is the director of Siri Analytics at Apple, where she is in charge of using data to make Apple's voice assistant, Siri, make decisions. Here team helps decide how Siri is updated (the new features the program will get) and more. Before working for Apple, Garten worked as the director of data science at LinkedIn and founded the informatics consulting firm, Genetics Systems Inc.
Here are some organizations, groups, conferences and scholarships to check out if you're interested in a career in engineering, yourself.
"As STEM-related industries on a whole add over 1.7 million jobs in the coming years, there continues to be a notable absence of women in the field," according to the Women in Computer Science website.
STEM has a promising career trajectory, as there's a demand for these jobs and they're lucrative. There were almost 8.6 million STEM jobs in May 2015, representing 6.2 percent of U.S. employment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computer occupations made up nearly 45 percent of STEM employment, and engineers made up an additional 19 percent.
And 93 out of 100 STEM occupations had wages above the national average. Specifically, petroleum engineers earned the highest salaries, with an annual mean wage of $149,590, over $100,000 higher than the national average across all occupations. And physicists ($118,500) was also among the highest-paid STEM occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But women aren't the highest earners in STEM. In fact, STEM is notoriously male-dominated with a rather grim gender pay gap. Men working in STEM average $73,000, while women working in STEM average just $65,300 — a gap of 11 percent, according to a 2017 salary survey carried out by New Scientist and science recruitment specialists SRG.
On top of the pay gap, women in STEM face unique challenges that make them more likely than men to leave their careers for jobs in other industries, according to Catalyst data. For example, 53 percent of women (compared to 31 percent of men) who start out in business roles in tech-intensive industries leave because of isolation, hostile male-dominated work environments, ineffective executive feedback and a lack of effective sponsors.
Another study of 1,464 women engineers found that women are neither receiving the recognition they deserve for their work nor the opportunities for advancement. And they report feeling unable to effectively use their math and science skills, often because their superiors and colleagues doubt their skills.
It's no surprise, then, that few women even bother studying STEM. Only 27 percent of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female, and just 18 percent of American computer-science college degrees go to women.
But the world needs more women in STEM.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.
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