High-Tech High Heels blazes a trail for girls in STEM

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High-Tech High Heels is helping close the gender gap in STEM.
Image: High-Tech High Heels

The STEM world has long been thought of as a boys club. While that was true for many years, things have started changing recently. More women than ever are entering STEM fields and making their way up the ranks of influential companies in the space. It goes without saying that this is a good thing for the industry and the world.

If science and technology are going to serve everyone, then everyone needs to be working on their development. Sadly, huge numbers of young women are abandoning STEM career paths early on.

To help combat that issue, companies like Texas Instruments (TI) and non-profit organizations like High-Tech High Heels are working to increase awareness for girls who want to enter a STEM field and provide new opportunities for them to pursue their dreams.

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The State of STEM

The term STEM has been around since 2001—although it feels like it’s been much longer than that. It was invented by the U.S. National Science Foundation to make referring to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math easier. Considering the fact that they work so closely together, it makes a lot of sense.

Of course, the STEM world is far different than it was in 2001. Careers in tech are leaning heavily into applications like artificial intelligence, 5G, and the chips that power them. Engineering has begun focusing on new manufacturing methods like 3D printing and the world of robots. The science field is essentially limitless, making new breakthroughs in areas like healthcare and spaceflight every day. Meanwhile, mathematics continues to be an essential component of all the fields mentioned previously.

Considering the rapidly evolving state of innovation in today’s world, these careers won’t be going away anytime soon. By contrast, they will only become more in-demand as the STEM world looks for new leaders and pioneers.

Enabling Opportunity

Despite the fact that STEM is booming, only 25 percent of positions in the field are held by women. While that figure is far better than it was ten years ago, it still remains very disproportionate.

According to High-Tech High Heels (HTHH), a non-profit aimed at providing opportunities for young girls hoping to enter STEM fields, the education system is a big part of the problem. It claims that only 12 out of 100 female college graduates earn a STEM-related degree. That comes despite the fact that more than half of college graduates nationwide are women.

The organization goes on to note that about 80 percent of STEM students decide on their field of study in high school or earlier. Unfortunately, many girls often lose interest and confidence in STEM subjects during middle and high school.

To help fix the problem, HTHH funds programs focused on K-12 girls that prepare them to pursue STEM-related degrees. It also works with a variety of different organizations to accomplish its goal of extending new opportunities to young women hoping to explore STEM careers. These include everything from summer camps to workshops with industry leaders.

Inspiring Hope

While there are many people responsible for helping bring High-Tech High Heels to life, perhaps one of the most impactful is Hope Bovenzi. She is currently a sector general manager for automotive infotainment at Texas Instruments. When she isn’t pushing the boundaries of innovation at work, Bovenzi helps recruit Silicon Valley leaders for HTHH.

Considering that the organization is founded by Texas Instrument’s employees, that shouldn’t be surprising. Still, Hope’s role is a huge one for the non-profit. She is working with a leadership team of five women to launch HTHH’s newest chapter.

In an interview with Texas Instruments, she said, “You need a holistic approach to get girls into STEM because they start to lose confidence in math and science as early as fourth grade. You can’t change the environment or the mindset with just one touch point. And there’s a business case for it—if your company is lacking diversity, you’re missing out on great ideas.”

Hope is passionate about working with young women pursuing STEM careers because she herself was impacted over the years by a variety of mentors and teachers who helped her follow her dreams.

Now, she is helping the next generation of female STEM leaders do the same. Her authentic approach to leadership and dedication to closing the gender gap that exists in the industry is admirable.

Tech Industry Plays a Huge Role

While there is still plenty of work to do, the tech industry is making positive strides thus far to help level the playing field in terms of gender diversity. Many of the world’s largest tech companies are flipping the script on past stereotypes and even have programs dedicated to hiring more female employees into important positions.

Texas Instruments, a major player in the semiconductor industry, has been influential in the success of HTHH. The company encourages its employees to participate in community-building activities like this one and offers plenty of support along the way.

It also has a strong record of promoting diversity in its workplace. Texas Instruments is among the Top 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers and on the National Association for Female Executive’s list of Top Companies for Executive Women. Meanwhile, many important STEM positions at TI are filled by women like Hope Bovenzi.

In all, the company has 15 initiatives as part of its TI Diversity Network. When tech leaders like Texas Instruments step up to promote diversity in the workplace, others follow. Thanks to bold leadership like this, the world of STEM will be even brighter in the years to come.

Meanwhile, thanks to organizations like High-Tech High Heels and hard-working individuals like Hope, young females have plenty of sources of inspiration when considering a career in STEM.

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