Women represent nearly half of the U.S. workforce but only 27% of STEM workers, says the U.S. Census Bureau. They also earn the same or less than men in all but one STEM occupation. Despite regional differences (including places where girls are outperforming boys), a World Bank Group report finds that stereotypes and biases are important drivers of gender gaps in STEM on a global scale.
Stroud Water Research Center is aiming to change that in its area of influence: freshwater science.
On August 31, Rachel Johnson, David Bressler, and Daniel Myers took a Stroud Center–sponsored trip to the Reservoir Center for Water Solutions in Washington, D.C., to attend “Empowering the Next Generation of Women Closing the Gender Gap,” hosted by the Women’s Aquatic Network, the Embassy of Sweden, and Xylem.
The interactive session featured keynote speaker Deputy Chief of Mission Ingrid Ask of the U.S. Embassy of Sweden and panelists from diverse STEM backgrounds to explore the question “How can we support girls in bridging the step from studying STEM to building a career in the water tech industry?”
The event was part of World Water Week, organized by Stockholm International Water Institute.
Myers said, “We discussed how employers can empower women through practices like eliminating unconscious biases, providing flexible time for how and where work can be done, communicating and educating why empowering women is important, and providing good mentors.”
Speaking of the experience, Johnson said, “As an early-career woman research engineer technician, I was elated that the space provided at the Reservoir Center for Water Solutions led to discussions of meaningful topics such as building self-confidence and critical networking skills.”
She further recalled, “It was comforting to share my personal experiences alongside male allies and powerful women in the water conservation industry who could relate, sympathize, and provide valuable feedback. I left the event feeling inspired after hearing stories from women thriving in their fields, while also finding validation of some difficult personal and professional occurrences while navigating my STEM career. The conversations shared at this event are crucial to carry into our day-to-day interactions in order to increase the representation of women in STEM fields and begin to bridge the gender-specific barriers to growing within the water tech industry.”
The Stroud Center is one of more than 30 consortium partners of the Reservoir Center for Water Solutions, which opened in June to serve as a global collaboration hub to advance breakthrough water solutions and innovations and promote water education and awareness.