Guiding women to STEM careers

Published 11:06 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Educators and others have long bemoaned the fact that not many women pursue careers in STEM-related fields. For a variety of reasons, some more clear than others, women are woefully underrepresented when it comes to jobs in science, technology, engineering and math.
Manufacturing, which often has a heavy STEM component, is an area where women make up only a small portion of the workforce. Women are 47 percent of the general workforce, but comprise less than one-third of the manufacturing workforce.
The Alabama Technology Center is working to change that. ATN, along with Gadsden State Community College, hosted an event called Girls Employed in Manufacturing last week, giving a group of students from area high schools a look at how a manufacturing operation works and encouraging them to consider manufacturing when making career choices.
The students toured the Inteva plant and heard speakers talk about “lean” manufacturing processes, referring to management practices that eliminate waste and streamline production. They even got to try their hands at some assembly line work. By all accounts, their efforts were successful.
A well-trained workforce is critical to recruiting new industries, Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton told the students. He encouraged them to take advantage of career-tech education. Gadsden State President Martha Lavender echoed those sentiments. Her school has formed several partnerships with businesses and industries to meet training needs.
Integrating women into manufacturing or other STEM-related fields will be a slow process. Young women don’t have a lot of role models in those fields, and because there aren’t many women working in manufacturing, some young people are reluctant to consider that as a career path, because the jobs traditionally have been held predominantly by men.
ATN instructor Jon Bowen said it best, however, when discussing the role women can play in manufacturing in the future.
“You can go as far as you want to go,” he told the students. “Women haven’t always had that opportunity.”
The change is long overdue.

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