Broadening and Diversifying Interest in STEM

Friday, May 1, 2015 11:50 am EDT

By:

Terry Royer, Vice President, Mechanical Drives, Process Industries and Drives and David Etzwiler, CEO of Siemens Foundation

In mid-March, we had the honor of volunteering alongside more than 65 other employees during “Introduce a Girl to Engineering,” an annual event at Siemens West Chicago facility where more than 100 middle- and high-school girls spent the evening conducting design experiments, touring the facility during the second shift and learning about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the promising opportunities available to them in the manufacturing industry.

2015 Introduce A Girl to Engineering

For most of the girls, this was their first interactive experience with STEM.  And while it was a privilege to offer the opportunity, it pales in comparison to what we know we must do to attract young women to careers in STEM fields.   Research shows that American businesses will need more than 1.5 million basic and advanced skilled workers in STEM in the next five years. We must ensure that women are encouraged and provided with opportunities to pursue great careers in engineering and manufacturing.   And once they arrive, we must do everything we can to ensure they succeed.

“Introduce a Girl” showed us that lack of interest in these careers is not why girls are underrepresented in them.  Crystal Cristeseu, a Siemens electrical engineer and 31-year old mother of three who also volunteered, became an engineer because of her father’s passion for STEM, which he shared with her. She never had something like “Introduce a Girl” growing up. Conversely, she said she felt out of place in her first STEM courses and had to “persevere,” with the support of her father, to earn her engineering degree. 

We must understand that it is our industry’s responsibility to engage underserved and underdeveloped potential.  And we believe we’re seeing the trends starting to change.   Last year, Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology reached an all-time high for female participation. Today, the Siemens Foundation announced its Call for Entries in the 16th Annual Siemens Competition.  Each year we see more girls apply, and their presence in the national finals is no longer a headline-grabbing phenomenon, as it was just five to 10 years ago.

2013 $100K Siemens Competition Team Winners

The competition remains a great showcase for elite STEM student research.  But it can also provide insight on where we, as a country, need to close important gaps.

As the entries come in for this year’s competition, we’ll all need to take a close look at  the types of students represented and more importantly – which kinds of students are not visible at all. Not only is equality of opportunity a core value of our country; without it, our economy will not continue to thrive.

Of course, it’s not just women.  There are other underserved communities that must benefit from more access to STEM education and workforce opportunities. We’re proud of the role Siemens has played in making STEM more accessible to all students across the  country, especially those in communities with limited  exposure to these kinds of opportunities  and thus, an even smaller chance to pursue STEM-related careers.  But this is a marathon – not a sprint – and we look forward to seeing more corporations, educational pillars and other change-makers join forces to tackle this issue in new and innovative ways.  

About:

Terry Royer is Vice President of Mechanical Drives in the Process Industries and Drives division as well as CEO and President for Winergy Drive System Corp. (a Siemens company), the market leader for drive train solutions to the wind industry. Terry holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri, Masters in Business Administration from the University of Illinois and maintains his Professional Engineering License in the State of Illinois.  He is an active participant with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). He is a previous board of director for AWEA.

David Etzwiler is CEO of Siemens Foundation, whichsupports innovation, research and education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Under his leadership, the Foundation has increasingly focused its STEM efforts on workforce development opportunities in the United States.   David holds a Masters of Public Policy from The Claremont Graduate University in California and his Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School.