Want More Women In STEM? Show Them The… Purpose!

There is extensive coverage about the limited number of women pursuing STEM jobs, especially in the areas of engineering and computer science. But often times this coverage fails to inform about what changes could be made to STEM jobs to make them more attractive to women.

A recent report from Pew Research Center offers insights into what qualities women value in a job. Such information can be invaluable to hiring organizations by helping them to craft job roles and communicate job openings in ways that better attract females.

One area that is especially important to women is having a greater purpose in their work. For example, when Pew Research asked men and women what was important to them personally when choosing a job, 31% of men cited that ‘having a job that focused on helping others’ was important. For women, the importance of this quality almost doubled with 59% of women stating that it was important to have a job that focused on helping others.

Couragion’s own data shows that having a greater purpose in a job will be even more important to the incoming workforce. Among our middle and high school students, 76% desire a great purpose in their work. And as in the Pew Research Center report, Couragion’s data also shows that this desire is strongest among females with 81% desiring greater purpose compared to 72% of males.

So what can hiring organizations do with this data? Showing how a career has purpose is easy if it naturally comes as part of the job – such as a biomedical engineer creating medical devices or a water engineer that is bringing clean drinking water to a region. But for other jobs where there may not be as much intrinsic purpose to the role, here are other suggestions for infusing purpose into the workplace…

  1. Institute an apprentice or internship program whereby employees have the opportunity to give back by training and mentoring the incoming workforce.
  2. Offer 2 or 3 extra days off per year that employees can use to volunteer at one of their favorite charitable organizations.
  3. Create a corporate giving program that enables employees to donate a portion of their income to a charity of their choice with your company matching a portion of the donation.
  4. Establish a corporate-wide ‘give back’ day in which all employees work together to do something for the local community. Ideas include cleaning a local park, visiting a local school to give career talks, serving meals to homeless people, etc.
  5. Give employees the chance to lead internal initiatives that improve the working environment – such as allowing a person to allocate a portion of their time to researching and instituting a company-wide recycling/composting program.

What does your organization do on this front? How do you infuse greater purpose into job roles and your culture? How do you communicate this in job postings or demonstrate it during the recruiting and hiring process? We’d love to hear your ideas (info at Couragion.com).

And if you are interested in reading the Pew Research Center report, you may download it here.

Laura FarrellyComment